Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Villanova: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Record: 22-13, 9-9 Big East (9th)

Key Losses: Malcolm Grant (5.6 ppg)

Key Returnees: Scottie Reynolds (15.9 ppg, 3.1 apg), Dante Cunningham (10.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg)

Newcomers: Maurice Sutton

Villanova had a surprising run in the NCAA tournament last year, reaching the sweet 16 as a 12 seed before finally losing to Kansas, and returns everyone except for Malcolm Grant (transferring to Miami). The biggest problem for Villanova is that they will be playing in a loaded Big East, where they aren't even one of the top four teams. But Villanova will be a sleeper, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them make another (longer) run in the NCAA tourney this year (you heard it here first).

When you talk about this 'Nova team, the first thing you have to mention is Scottie Reynolds. He's not very big and not overly athletic, but he is deceptively quick and a fantastic shooter with deep range. He is just one of those guys who knows how to score and can put up points in a hurry. He will be joined in the backcourt by sophomore Cory Fisher, a lighting quick point guard who can penetrate and create, and a slew of big guards - Corey Stokes, Dwayne Anderson, and Reggie Redding. Stokes is probably the best scorer of the bunch thanks to his jump shot (he only shot 30% from deep, but really came on strong at the end of the year including a 20 point game in the Big East tourney and 18 against Siena in the NCAAs), while Anderson and Redding are more known for their defense and hustle.

Villanova's frontcourt is where the questions were last year, especially when Shane Clark was battling exhaustion (does anyone know if they ever actually figured out what was wrong with him?). Senior Dante Cunningham is probably their best forward. He came into 'Nova as a skinny freshman that could only jump, but has filled out (6'8", 230 lb) and developed a solid all-around game. Clark, also a senior, is a similar player, although he is a bit smaller and plays a more perimeter oriented game. They also have Antonio Pena and Casiem Drummond up front. Drummond could be a wild card for this team. He is 6'10" and has showed some flashes of his potential, but he is big (listed at 275 lb) and coming off of a broken ankle suffered in the NCAA's. If Drummond and 6'11" freshman Maurice Sutton can provide a presence in the paint on both ends of the court, Villanova could be really good.

Outlook: Villanova has the makings of a team that could make some noise in March - deep, talented, experienced, and coming off of a tournament run. You know what you're getting from veteran guys like Reynolds and Cunningham, so the X-factor for this team will be Drummond and Sutton inside. If they can develop, Villanova could make the Final Four. If they don't, Villanova may not make the Final Four of the Big East tournament.

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