Villanova Wildcats Off to a 3-0 Regular Season Start
Through the first three games of the regular season, the V in Villanova has stood for Victory.
With convincing wins of 15, 18, and 39 points, the Cats have made it look pretty easy.
Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Albany, Fordham, and Niagara have hardly been the level of opponent that Villanova will see from teams in a perpetually tough Big Five city series, game-in game-out through the brutal Big East season, or against Texas in NYC. They are however, important games for the Wildcats to find their rhythm.
Nova started the season without senior Shane Clark; then lost forward Dwayne Anderson (who is out for at least several weeks). In the last two games center Casiem Drummond has played a total of just two minutes. If Nova had started off the season with some really tough opponents, they could easily have a few losses under their belt.
Against Albany Friday night, the Cats had six players score in double digits and really spread the ball around. They were only +1 on the boards but had a much better assist to turnover ratio than Albany.
Against Fordham this past Monday, Dante Cunningham had his senior coming out party. He scored a career high 31 points and pulled down double digit rebounds. Four other Wildcats scored in double digits including 17 points apiece from the Coreys (Fisher and Stokes). Reynolds and Fisher got into foul trouble early and the cats were forced to use Reggie Redding as a point guard briefly.
If this had happened against a top 25 team, Villanova might have lost. Redding is not the world's best ball handler. Luckily they were playing Fordham, shot over 58% from the field, 50% from behind the arc, and connected on 30 of 36 from the charity stripe.
On Wednesday the Cats faced their toughest opponent when under-sized but gritty Niagara made the trip to the Main Line. The Cats were up by as many as 13 in the first half but led by just six at the half. The lead dropped to as low as two points in the second half before Villanova pulled away to eventually win by 15 (largest lead was 17).
They were led by 19 points from Scottie Reynolds and three other players in double figures (including Reggie Redding, who dropped in a season high 14, starting for Corey Stokes who had an injured thumb and came off the bench to give the Wildcats 27 minutes).
In this game the big story was foul trouble for Nova's big men. With Jay Wright unwilling (or unable) to use Drummond for more than two minutes, Villanova was forced to play under-sized for most of the game. Fisher and Reynolds each played 36 minutes with Redding chipping in 34 minutes. Eventually Clark, Pena, and Cunningham all fouled out.
If Niagara had been a team with any talented big men, Villanova easily could have lost this game as well. Villanova was just +2 on the boards, shot 73.7% from the free-throw line, and had more turnovers than assists. That kind of game would be a recipe for disaster during the Big East season.
If Villanova is going to finish 22-8 as I predicted, they are going to have to keep their fouls down. They cannot afford to be without their best big men or guards against better teams. They also must hit their free-throws with consistency, and above all, stay healthy. This team will look totally different if Dwayne Anderson and Drummond can give them decent minutes on a consistent basis.
So far the Wildcats are off to a perfect 3-0 start. Unfortunately it is not how you start the season but how you finish it; Villanova still has a lot to prove if they want to be dancing in March.
V stands for Victory, but it could also stand for Very nearly made it if Nova finds themselves on the bubble again at the end of this season.
I believe that with the talent the Wildcats have and the ability of Jay Wright to lead these young men into battle, the Cats could surprise a lot of people this season.
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