As we head down the stretch towards the Big East Tournament, the next school in my Five Questions series is Villanova! My fellow "Biggest Fan of the Big East" contestant Miguel "Miggy" Gutierrez, from the blog Out of Bounds, has agreed to stop by and answer my five questions. Thanks Miggy!
What team are you most looking forward to playing in Big East play?
Georgetown…you ask any Villanova fan and they will tell you Georgetown is our biggest Big East rival hands down…always an thrilling and excruciating game to watch when these two teams meet…not to mention (at the moment) this is the last ranked opponent Villanova has scheduled (besides Notre Dame), so a win against the Hoyas this year would give more meaning since Nova has yet to win a game against a ranked foe. G’town’s rep in our Volvo Big East contest, Stephanie (@YouGotSnowd) will be there for her Alma Mater weekend, and while I hope the rest of her trip goes smoothly, my wish is for the Wildcats to leave there with a victory.
What is the biggest improvement Nova has made this year from last year?
Well, the question is not easy to answer considering our struggles throughout this entire year overshadow the late-season collapse of last year…in fact our numbers show that in almost every category, we are doing worse than in last season, from field-goal % and 3-pointers to assists, steals, blocks and opponents’ points allowed (among last in both the conference and the entire country this year). One could look at all of these numbers and understand why the team is not performing to expectations. That said, there have been some improvements that the team has made this year. Among them is the fact that the Wildcats are among the leaders in rebounds per game this year (first in conference, ninth in nation). Oddly that “Guard U” would carry such a distinction, but with six players averaging at least four (ok, Cheek is now down to 3.9…) rebounds a game, the statistic is justified. Although every Villanova team is taught to hustle for every play, this mark shows that they at least want to make up for their particular shooting woes this year. Furthermore, these Wildcats players understand that have not been forcing opponents to turn the ball over; therefore, the team must limit teams to one shot each possession.
Strangely enough, another improvement that this year’s Wildcats have made from last year is limiting their turnovers. Yes, Villanova has given up the rock twenty times in two of their last three games, but compared to last year’s abysmal ranking (304th overall last year), this year’s team has held their giveaways in check (126th in time of writing).
Who is your favorite player on the team?
JayVaughn Pinkson: Just watch this guy from the moment he steps on the court and you can immediately sense the intensity and tenacity he brings to the table. Villanova followers do remember he was not allowed to play last year due to “disciplinary issues”; however; it seems he has learned to put that incident past him and perform at each game. During Media Day, Coach Wright has stated that JVP would be the biggest surprise to watch this year (granted, he said this last season too…), but to his credit, Pinkston has lived to the hype. It seems he has risen to the occasion even when Big East play started, averaging 12.8 points during conference play (9.6 ppg for season). Along with the improved scoring, JVP has added a defensive presence the team desperately needed: before the USF meltdown, Pinkston averaged 10 rebounds while adding a block and steal each game since almost a month ago versus Seton Hall (7 games). He relieved some of the pressure the team has placed on Mouphtaou Yarou, a player who has struggled lately, to be the interior force. I recall talking to a few NBA scouts after the Mizzouri game, and when asking who impressed them the most from Villanova, each gave Pinkston as their answer. “The man is strong, athletic, hustles and can flat out play,” one scout said, “I would love to see him when he fully reaches his potential.” Hopefully, he, along with the rest of the team, can reach their capabilities and prove once again why they are a team to fear playing.
Here are some JayVaughn Pinkson highlights from the Blue & White Scrimmage game:
What quiet player will become a standout player before the year is over?
James Bell: Bell is one of the better spot shooters in the team, and does lead the Wildcats in 3pt% (35.8%), yet he is only fifth on the team in scoring at 7.5 ppg. Although a sophomore, he looked tentative early in the season, not sure how he should be contributing for Villanova. In fact, when Big East play started, it took him until Syracuse (five games into conference play) to start taking his three-pointers again. That said, Bell has already started to pick up the pace, hitting double-digit points in five of his last seven games, along with an increase in rebounds (career-high 13 versus Louisville) and steals (1.4 avg in that seven game span). It seems that he realized to continue taking his shots (albeit, the USF game being the outlier of this recent trend); he has been taking good shots all year and at least now he is trusting they will start going in. This is important since the team is still looking for someone to help Wayns in the scoring department consistently (especially now with his injury). Yarou has been fading a bit and Pinkston gives the team an interior force, but Villanova needs a Corey Stokes-type, an outside threat, to ease opponents’ interior defense. If other teams have to respect an outside shooter, it allows Wayns to penetrate easier and the big men to find less pressure when getting the ball inside. I believe Bell will learn to become that complimentary offensive threat.
What is the best part about playing in the Big East?
You never know what will happen each season, or even each game. Up and down the entire conference, there are no days off here, no days where you could be comfortable and relax. Every team is capable of beating each other any day; there is no other conference in the nation that could claim this every year. The fact the Big East has more than 100 bids (374) than any other conference is a testament to how strong this group is.
[Bonus] What is your prediction for the score of the Notre Dame - Nova game?
I don’t want to be winless this entire season when watching Villanova in person…probably going to be a second-half rally, again, in which I hope Nova wins 70-68!
Thanks again to Miggy from Out of Bounds, for stopping by and answering my Five Questions. Please take a moment and stop by his blog, and show him some Big East love!
And don't forget ... I still need votes ... help ... please!! :)
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