Friday, January 28, 2011

Best Motion Picture of the Year Nominees

Winter’s Bone
A young girl has to travel through the crystal meth-infested neighborhoods of the Ozark Mountains to find her father. Speaking of tough winter road trips, after a tough loss to a top-10 team at UConn, Villanova had to go up to the Carrier dome to face an even higher ranked top-10 team, then they had to travel to the always raucous Dunkin Donuts Center. Who would have figured that Villanova’s lone win in the 3-game road trip would come against the toughest opponent of the three, #3-ranked Syracuse. However, Nova followed that impressive win with a loss against a Providence team that started out 0-6 in Big East play, though the Friars are a much better team than that poor start would indicate.

I think Jim Boheim pulled some kind of inception, breaking into our minds and making us think that his Syracuse team was better than it actually is. The Orange started out 18-0, but have now dropped three straight, including a 22-point loss at home to Seton Hall. Or was I just dreaming about that?

The King’s Speech
The story of George VI overcoming a speech impediment to become the king of Britain. Maalik Wayns has seemingly overcome a 3-point shooting impediment that he was struggling with earlier this season to become the “king” of Villanova these past couple of games. Wayns has led the team in scoring in each of the past two games; 21 points (3-7 3pt) vs. Syracuse and 18 points (2-4 3pt) vs. Providence.

Toy Story 3
Fisher Price is one of the best toy companies out there. Fisher Price is also one of the best college point guards out there. However, against the Friars, Vincent Council played more like Fisher Price than Fisher himself. Council had 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists, including some impressive alley-oop passes. Meanwhile, Fisher shot 2-10 from the field to score just 7 points.

127 Hours
That’s about how much time Corey Stokes needs to spend practicing shooting. I thought he broke out of his slump for good with that 16 point (4-11 3pt) game against Syracuse, but then he went on to have his worst shooting night… probably ever. 2 of 16 from the field!? 1 of 9 from three!? At least he was perfect from the free throw line, and he grabbed a season-high 9 rebounds. But if he doesn’t improve that shooting stroke, he might have to cut his own arm off.

Black Swan
Maurice Sutton is a white swan who needs to embrace his dark side more often and play like a black swan. He showed he can play tough against Syracuse with 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks, but he had just 1 point and 2 rebounds in 9 foul-plagued minutes against Providence. Mouphtaou Yarou is another player who occasionally suffers from “white swan syndrome”. He’s had some stellar games this season, but he’s also had his share of sub-par performances, most recently against Providence (3 points, 2 rebounds, 1-6 FG). Embrace your inner black swans, big guys… just don’t lose your minds in the process.

True Grit
Sutton can learn a thing or two from his teammate Antonio Pena who showed true grit against Providence with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Dominic Cheek also showed some grit, scoring 9 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in just his second game back from his knee injury. I hate to do it, but I have to credit Rick Jackson for his grit as well. He had 16 points and 15 rebounds in the loss to Nova, and he’s been a double-double machine all season.

The Fighter
Like boxers, Scoop Jardine (1-8 FG, 0-3 3pt) and Dion Waiters (2-12 FG, 1-7 3pt) went down swinging-- or shooting-- in their loss to Nova. Marshon Brooks’ Providence team may have won, and he still scored 20 points, but his 0 for 8 three-point shooting performance versus Nova was… interesting. When you’re 0 for 7 on the night, you’d think he would think twice before bricking that eighth three. But no, even when pinned against the ropes, Brooks went down swinging and threw up one last brick.

The Social Network
A story of friends turned enemies over millions of dollars… Just like former Wildcat teammates Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry, who now battle against each other in the NBA with their million dollar contracts. Lowry’s Rockets beat Foye’s Clippers Wednesday night, 96-83, while both players scored 20 points a piece. Foye looks like he’s finally healthy for the first time this season, and he’s stepped into the starting shooting guard role with the injury to Eric Gordon. Even though Randy and Kyle are enemies on the court, they still remain friends on Facebook.

The Kids Are All Right
This movie title sums up the state of Jay Wright’s squad right now. The young Wildcats will continue to have their ups and down throughout the grueling Big East schedule, but ultimately, they’ll be alright.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Huskies Halt Wildcats Win Streak

With 2.5 seconds left in a tie game, Kemba Walker ended Villanova’s winning streak at 11 games, resulting in the Wildcats’ first Big East loss of the season. On the bright side, I’m still a perfect 18-0 in my preseason predictions. If only I had followed through and done some sports betting before the season... Maybe I have some kind of supernatural psychic power, and I doomed Nova by predicting them to lose to the Huskies. In that case, is it too late to change my prediction for the Syracuse game this Saturday?

Also on the bright side, Corey Fisher outscored fellow Bronx native Kemba Walker 28-24. The 28 points were a season-high for Fisher, who also dished out 6 assists. Fisher had an impressive performance in the comeback-win over Maryland as well, when he scored 8 of his 17 points during a 19-0 Villanova run late in the game. When you throw out the inflated early season statistics and focus on conference play, Fisher is right there with Walker in the running for Big East Player of the Year, which is another preseason prediction that I’d gladly be wrong about.

Unfortunately, Nova did lose the game, so there is inevitably a dark side. I knew Corey Stokes’ out of this world shooting would eventually fall back to earth, but I never foresaw a slump this bad. Nova was able to overcome his 4-14 FG and 1-7 3PT shooting day against Maryland, but Stokes’ 0-6 shooting day proved costly in a tight game against UConn. Even the best of shooters are prone to the occasional slump, so Stokes just needs to stay confident in his stroke and shoot his way out of it.

Maalik Wayns was instrumental in the Maryland comeback, scoring 22 points, hitting 7 of 10 field goals and 7 of 9 free throws. Wayns is at his best when he drives to the basket and draws fouls like his mentor Kyle Lowry. However, he only earned one trip to the line against the Huskies and missed all four of his 3-point attempts. Speaking of Lowry, he has remained the Rockets’ starting point guard even after Aaron Brooks returned from injury, and his play hasn’t suffered any drop-off. Lowry tied his season-high with 28 points last week against Chris Paul and the Hornets.

Antonio Pena had 14 points and 10 rebounds against Maryland, his first double-double since December 3, but don’t let that stat fool you. Pena, averaging about 10 points and 7 rebounds, is quietly having a super super-senior season (say that five times fast) for Nova. He had a modest 8 points and 5 rebounds in the loss to UConn, but the more important stat is the 38 minutes that he played in the game (and 39 minutes vs. Maryland). Throughout his career, Pena’s fatal flaw was always his inability to stay on the floor due to foul trouble, but he’s done a fantastic job at avoiding stupid fouls this season. Pena is yet to be disqualified from a game this season after fouling out eight times in 2009-2010. It helps that he is playing alongside a legitimate center in Mouphtaou Yarou, but you can tell that the 24-year-old Pena has grown wiser with his years.

Yarou’s scoring has been sporadic this season, following up his season-high 18 points versus Louisville with 3 points versus Maryland then 8 points versus UConn. However, Mouph must be watching Kevin Love game tape because his rebounding has stayed consistent, grabbing double-digit boards in three straight games. And Yarou must have shared that tape with Isaiah Armwood before the Maryland game because he went on to record a career-high 13 rebounds. Maybe Armwood had some extra motivation playing against his home-state school. Jay Wright has had to lean on Armwood and freshman James Bell more than usual these past two games because of the knee injury that Dominic Cheek suffered against Maryland. The outcome of the UConn game likely would have been a little different if Cheek, a sixth man of the year candidate, was available. Fortunately, the injury isn’t serious, and Cheek should be back soon.

Before I close, one more note for the bright side... At least the 33rd overall pick in the 2009 draft, Dante Cunningham, is having a better NBA career than the 2nd overall pick, Hasheem Thabeet.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Two Coreys Are Better Than Everyone

Villanova is off to an undefeated 4-0 start to Big East play with wins over Rutgers (81-65), South Florida (83-71), Cincinnati (72-61), and Louisville (88-74). The number one reason for the team’s success is Corey. The number two reason is also Corey. Fisher and Stokes are both playing the best basketball of their careers, as they add their names to the list of great senior seasons under Jay Wright. (See: Reynolds, Scottie; Cunningham, Dante; Foye, Randy) It’s pointless to try to say who is the best Corey because they do different things and are equally important.

Both Coreys have been great all season long, but they have each turned it up a notch in the New Year when Big East Conference play began. Stokes is shooting the ball better than anyone in the country not named Jimmer (18.75 points, 54.8% FG, 60.9% 3PT, 93.1% FT in Big East games). Fisher Price is better known for his acrobatic drives to the basket, but recently he has heated up from the outside as well, making him virtually unguardable (17.25 points, 5.25 assists, 50% FG, 50% 3PT, 81.8% FT in Big East games). If he didn’t have such talented teammates, Fisher could probably score 105 points in a real game this season. (That is if you consider DePaul on February 19 a real game.)

Two more of those talented teammates are Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou. Wayns has scored at least 15 points in three straight games, but he’s always looking to set up his teammates first and foremost (7.5 assists per game in Big East). The showdown with the Cardinals seemed to be turning into a 3-point shootout, with Louisville hitting 12 of 25 from long-range and Nova making 8 of 13 as well. However, the difference in the game was Yarou, the big man in the middle for Nova, who Louisville had no answer for. Mouph had a career-high 18 points and added a game-high 11 rebounds, including 5 on the offensive glass. If Wayns and Yarou continue playing this well, they might not still be around to join the "Great Villanova Senior Season Club".

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010-11 NNBEPP 1

It's a new year, and the first Big East conference games of the season are in the books. You know what that means... It’s time for the first Nova News Big East Power Poll (NNBEPP) of the season. (A Temple recap is posted under Villanova, and a Rutgers recap is posted under Princeton-- or under Rutgers. Yeah, that would probably make more sense.)

1. Syracuse - 15-0 (2-0) - The Orange once again look like the team to beat, even though Fab Melo is not a fab freshman, like Melo.

2. Pittsburgh - 13-1 (1-0) - I think Bruce Pearl is just trying to make the Big East look bad. First Tennessee beats Villanova, then they beat Pitt, and then they lose three in a row to Oakland, Charlotte, and USC, and now they lose at home to Charleston?

3. Villanova - 12-1 (1-0) - Villanova reclaimed the Big 5 title by beating the Temple Owls 78-74, despite Juan Fernandez’s 20 points and 5 assists. I don’t know what he has against Nova, but he always saves his best game of the season for the Wildcats. Corey Stokes led Nova with 24 points, sinking five threes for the fourth time this season to boost his 3-point shooting to 43.2%. However, Stokes missed his second free throw of the season to drop his accuracy to 94.6%. Maalik Wayns scored a season-high 21 points, and he also dished out 8 assists. Corey Fisher, limited by foul trouble, was held to just 5 points. Mouph Yarou used some skillful post moves to score 14 points. Antonio Pena had a near double-double with 8 points and 9 rebounds.

4. UConn - 11-1 (1-1) - Sure, Kemba Walker can score 42 points and get triple-doubles, but can he roundhouse-kick people in the face like Walker, Texas Ranger? I didn’t think so.

5. Notre Dame - 12-2 (1-1) - The Fighting Irish are right on schedule for their usual dominant November/December before their traditional mid-season collapse.

6. Georgetown - 12-2 (1-1) - Austin Freeman (19.1 ppg) is a nice candidate for the BEPOYBKW award. (Big East Player of the Year Besides Kemba Walker)

7. Louisville - 11-2 (0-0) - Louisville recently lost the Battle of Kentucky the Battle of Multiple Final Four Coaches the Battle of Cheating Coaches. At least Calipari limits his cheating to on the court and in the classrooms, and not under restaurant tables like Pitino.

8. Cincinnati - 14-0 (2-0) - There is some definite Ewing Theory potential with The Bearcats and Lance Stephenson. They’re undefeated, yet they still aren’t one of the seven Big East teams in the top 25.

9. Marquette - 10-4 (1-0) - No wonder Chris Otule’s career free throw percentage is under 50%; he only has one eye. He should ditch the goggles though, and wear an eye patch like Jeff Bridges in True Grit. Then he should transfer to Seton Hall so he can serve as both a player and the mascot.

10. Providence - 11-4 (0-2) - Marshon Brooks (23.4 ppg) is another candidate for the BEPOYBKW.

11. St. John’s - 9-3 (2-0) - The Red Storm won the Great Alaska Shootout and are undefeated in the Big East. Did Coach Lavin do it? Is St. John’s basketball finally back? Never mind, they only had to beat an Eskimo and a pack of Malamutes to win the Alaskan Shootout.

12. West Virginia - 8-4 (0-2) - After reaching the Final Four last season, the Mountaineers are unranked and lost at home to St. John’s. They’re one Bob Huggins’ texting mishap away from becoming the college basketball version of the 2010 Minnesota Vikings.

13. Seton Hall - 7-7 (1-1) - It’s a tragedy that Jeremy Hazell was shot after defending himself against four muggers on Christmas night, although I can’t say I’m not surprised. Hazell has never been afraid to take a shot; he led the nation in 3-point shots attempted last season with 290.

14. Rutgers - 9-4 (0-1) - After trailing by four points at halftime, Villanova came roaring back to win their Big East opener versus Rutgers. Corey Fisher got back to doing what he does best; fishing (19 points) and dishing (6 assists). Maalik Wayns came just about as close as you can get to a triple-double without getting a single double (9 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists). Yarou and Pena combined for 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks. And Corey Stokes… I always knew he had the potential to do this, but even I am surprised at how quickly he’s put it all together. Stokes led the team with 23 points, as he continued to shoot the lights out (4-7 3PT, 9-10 FT). Stokes has certainly added his name to the ballot for BEPOYBKW.

15. South Florida - 6-9 (0-2) and 16. DePaul - 6-8 (0-2) - These teams play each other twice this season, so one of them will have to win at least one Big East game this season. Although, if there is a way for two teams to lose one game, USF and DePaul will find a way to do it.