Villanova Basketball: One Early-Season Adjustment Each Wildcat Must Make
After nine games, the Villanova Wildcats are off to the worst start out of the 16 teams in the Big East Conference.
Yes, you read that right: even the annually terrible DePaul Blue Demons have a better record than Jay Wright's team at the moment.
A 5-4 record in nonconference is unacceptable at a program like Villanova, regardless of whether or not it is considered a rebuilding year.
Wright and company have four games left in the calendar year before switching over to the gauntlet that is Big East play on January 2nd.
There is no doubt that the Wildcat players need improvement, but if each of these players makes the adjustment that is suggested in this article, the Wildcats may just be able to revive what seems to be already a lost season.
Adjustment He Needs to Make: Learn How To Share with His Teammates
Ryan Arcidiacono was the biggest story of the Wildcats' season before their trip to New York City to play in the 2K Sports Classic on November 15th.
Before encountering the stingy Alabama defense in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic, Arcidiacono was a consistent scorer in double figures for the Wildcats.
Yet the Crimson Tide were able to exploit all of the freshman point guard's weaknesses.
During the second half of the Alabama game, for instance, Arcidiacono tried to be the Wildcats' hero and throw up a shot whenever he got past half court with the ball.
The freshman guard recorded six assists twice in the first four games of the season, which includes the loss to Alabama, but he has eclipsed that mark just once since.
Arcidiacono will not be relied on to score this season but his ability to provide for the rest of his teammates will be crucial.
Ideally, the freshman from Langhorne, Pennsylvania will want to average close to five assists per game when the season ends. Right now he is averaging 3.9 assists per game.
Adjustment He Needs to Make: Become a Mentor to Arcidiacono In the Backcourt
This may be asking a lot of Hilliard, since he is just a sophomore, but he needs to bank on what experience he does have to help Arcidiacono settle into Jay Wright's system before Big East play begins.
With Maalik Wayns unexpectedly leaving for the NBA after his junior season, Hilliard was left as the guard with the most experience on the roster.
Do not expect Hilliard to put up astronomical point totals, like the 22 he scored against Purdue, but look for him to be a leader on the court when the going gets rough.
Hilliard had a year behind Wayns to understand Wright's system and adapt accordingly, now he has to show what he has learned and pass it on not only to Arcidiacono, but to transfer Tony Chennault as well.
The sophomore from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania will have plenty of time on the court during games to help the two guards adjust, as Hilliard averages over 28 minutes per game.
When the season ends, no one will be talking about how much Hilliard scored, but people could be talking about what a great job he did helping two newcomers adjust to not only the college level, but Big East play as well.
Adjustment He Needs To Make: Score More Off the Bench
Tony Chennault was brought into the Villanova program from Wake Forest as a transfer who could contribute off the bench.
Before the game against Temple last Wednesday, Chennault had failed to make a huge impact on the court.
After the Temple game, where he scored a season-high 10 points, Chennault proved why he could be a valuable sixth man for the Wildcats.
However, all hope was lost for Chennault just three days later when he attempted just one shot in 16 minutes and failed to score a single point against Penn.
If both starting guards, Arcidiacono and Hilliard, fail to perform at the beginning of the game, it will be the responsibility of Chennault to pick up the slack when he comes off the bench.
For Jay Wright to have trust in Chennault, the junior will have to play like he did against Temple more often.
Adjustment He Needs to Make: Continue to Become a Threat from Beyond the Arc
James Bell leads the Wildcats in three-point shooting percentage this season and his ability to shoot from beyond the arc will be key throughout the rest of the season.
Bell has proven that he can be efficient from three-point range and he needs to be willing to take more shots from beyond the arc in future games.
Out of the five starters, Bell gets the least amount of attention but that can all change for the junior if he provides the Wildcats with a deep threat.
Bell does not have to take 10 shots from three-point range, like he did against Purdue, but five or six three-point attempts will suffice for a team that needs a consistent threat from that part of the court.
Adjustment He Needs To Make: Become the Go-To Scoring Threat
Currently, the leading scorer on the Wildcats team is Arcidiacono with 12.3 points per game, but JayVaughn Pinkston sits just one point behind the freshman.
Pinkston has emerged in the first nine games of the season as the team's top scoring threat.
The sophomore forward has hit double figures in the points column in six of the team's nine games, with his season-high being 19 points in an overtime loss to La Salle.
If Pinkston continues his excellent play, he will take pressure off the young backcourt to score and buy them more time in their development process.
There is no doubt that Pinkston will be the breakout star of the Wildcats' season, but he needs to become a more consistent scorer, especially in Big East play, to solidify his spot as the team's star.
Adjustment He Needs to Make: Rebound Close to Double Digit Numbers in Every Game
There is not much to criticize about the play of Mouphtaou Yarou so far this season.
The senior center has stepped up into a bigger role on the team and has been the presence in the paint that the Wildcats need.
Yarou has also been able to make his free throws on a consistent basis, a problem that plagues most big men in basketball.
Yarou has been a solid rebounder this season by averaging a team-high 5.4 boards per game, but if his totals increase in that category, the Wildcats would be able to win a few more games.
Almost every team in the Big East has a strong center that will contest Yarou for every rebound during conference play and the senior will have to win those battles in the paint for the Wildcats to improve on their putrid start.
Asking Yarou to be close to double digits in rebounds each night is not a tough request. The 6'10" center should be able to fight for every single rebound in the paint and with that effort will come better numbers in the rebounding category.
Adjustment He Needs to Make: Be the Efficient Sixth-Man off the Bench
Maurice Sutton has been around the Villanova program for four seasons now and his role as a senior has been made very clear by his coach.
Sutton will be the man called off the bench to relieve Yarou when he either needs a break or gets into foul trouble.
However, Sutton has been far from a model of consistency in his role this season.
His worst performance of the season came two weeks ago in a win on the road against Vanderbilt where he scored a single point and recorded two rebounds in nine minutes off the bench.
The senior center needs to find more consistency in his game soon or he may fall behind in the pecking order to the improving young duo of Daniel Ochefu and Achraf Yacoubou.
Adjustment He Needs to Make: Get Used to Playing 20 Minutes in Every Game
Daniel Ochefu has been used sparingly in the last five games by Jay Wright and for the impact of the freshman to be felt in a game, he needs to get more playing time.
Wright showed that he was willing to give Ochefu plenty of time at the beginning of the season, as he played in three games for more than 19 minutes.
Since the loss to Alabama however, Ochefu has been used less and less, with the big man only playing four minutes against La Salle.
There have been signs that Ochefu is getting back into the Wildcats' lineup, as he played 20 minutes in a game for the first time since the loss to Alabama on November 16th in the win over Penn on Saturday.
It is clear from the early season games that Wright wants to use Ochefu off the bench and in order to continue doing that, the freshman from Nigeria needs to get used to playing 20 minutes at a high-level in the college game.
Adjustment He Needs to Make: Taking Full Advantage of His Opportunity to Play
Achraf Yacoubou will not be a star on this year's Villanova team, but he could become a key contributor if he makes his time on the court valuable.
Yacoubou did just that in the Wildcats' win on Saturday over Penn when the sophomore forward played a season-high 25 minutes.
In his time on the court, Yacoubou also contributed his season-high in points with 13.
If he performs like he did against Penn for just a handful of games over the rest of the season, Yacoubou's impact off the bench will be very valuable for the Wildcats.