2008-2009 Record: 30-8, 13-5 Big East (4th)
Key Departures: Dante Cunningham (16.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.2 apg/bpg/spg), Dwayne Anderson (9.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Shane Clark (5.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
Key Returnees: Scottie Reynolds (15.2 ppg, 3.4 apg, 2.9 rpg), Corey Fisher (10.8 ppg, 2.8 apg, 2.3 rpg), Corey Stokes (9.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.0 apg), Reggie Redding (7.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.1 apg) suspended until Dec. 19, Antonio Pena (5.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Newcomers: Dominic Cheek, Maalik Wayns, Isaiah Armwood, Mouphtaou Yarou, Taylor King (transfer from Duke)
A fourth birth in the Final Four for the Villanova Wildcats last season ended against the eventual National Champion North Carolina Tar Heels by the score of 83-69. A birth in the Final Four for the team was great, but their sights are set even higher coming into the 2009-2010 season.
Although replacing their leading scorer in Dante Cunningham (16.1 ppg) and another vital player in Dwayne Anderson will be daunting, the Wildcats and Jay Wright look forward to their highly touted Freshmen class to step up and keep the Wildcats moving forward.
The biggest question of the offseason...Would Scottie Reynolds remain in the draft or return for his final year of eligibility? That question was answered right before the draft as Reynolds decided to return, to the delight of countless numbers of fans. With the return of their best playmaker and scorer, Jay Wright and the Wildcats were relieved to know that they had someone they could build around this season. With plenty of experience in big games, and being able to score from anywhere on the court, Reynolds looks to take the reins and lead Nova back to the Final Four and beyond.
The next question that arises is how Nova will fill the spot vacated by Reggie Redding a Senior guard who is suspended until Dec. 19 because of an arrest dealing with a drug charge. Redding was projected to start at the third guard position opposite Reynolds and Corey Stokes. That spot could now be filled by Corey Fisher or one of the highly touted McDonalds All-Americans Maalik Wayns or Dominic Cheek. If I had to guess I would say it would be one of the Freshmen in Wayns or Cheek because Fisher is too vital a player coming off the bench, seeing that he won the Big East Sixth Man of the Year last season.
At Forward the Wildcats have two new starters trying to replace two of their key contributors from last season in Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson. While Pena did get some experience playing in the rotation, he needs to elevate his game to a new level if there is any hope in replacing Cunningham’s production. Nova is looking for Pena to give them some muscle in the post and become a key cog in their rotation. The other starter at the forward position is going to be Taylor King, a transfer from Duke who is looking like a solid player after sitting out his mandatory year. King is going to be looked at to clean up on the boards but also to showcase his terrific shooting range that has been on display during practice and has impressed his teammates.
Jay Wright is excited about his Freshmen recruiting class stating, "Not one would surprise me if they had a great freshman year, they’re all that good."
Coach Wright isn’t the only one excited about this class coming in but the fans and members of the team are gearing up for these players to turn into special ones. The four freshmen are looking to add depth to a team that needs some quality scoring off the bench and some high energy guys to keep up the pressure on the defensive end. These four players look to be around for a full four seasons and should garner a copious amount of experience this season while helping Nova make a run at the top ranking and a run through the NCAA tournament.
Overall the Villanova Wildcats look like the team to beat in the Big East this season where a lot of teams are regrouping after losing their star players. But the Wildcats are not fully satisfied with the goal of winning the Big East; they are reaching for bigger and better things. With their talent in Reynolds, Fisher, Stokes, and the numerous freshmen recruits, a preseason top five ranking, and the confidence from last years’ Final Four run, the rest of the nation better be ready because the Wildcats are on the hunt for a National Championship.
Games to look forward to: 1/27 Notre Dame, 2/08 @WVU, 2/15 @UCONN, 2/27 @SYR, 3/02 @CIN.