Points have been much to easy to come by against the Wildcats this season.
The Villanova Wildcats are off to a wildly disappointing start to their season. At 6-5, this is the worst start to a season in over a decade.
To make matters worse, they’ve lost convincingly to rivals Temple and St. Joseph’s. The team has been maddening and at times it’s hard to figure out what the plan is at either end of the court.
On offense they shoot about twice as many three-pointers as they should. As a unit they are putting up 22.2 three-point attempts per game. They are only making 30.7 percent of those attempts.
Conversely, they are shooting 78 percent from the free-throw line. Instead of shooting 25-foot jumpers they should be attacking the basket and getting to the line.
Defensively they are stacked with long, quick athletes who can defend on the ball, but they have no idea how to execute simple team-defense concepts.
Here is a rundown of this year’s performances to date.
Wayns has been the only player producing at a consistently high level this season. He is averaging 17.9 points and 4.8 assists per game. His assist total would be significantly higher if he had just one shooter on his team.
Out of necessity he needs to score, but he doesn’t go about it in a productive way. Wayns is launching five shots a game from three-point range despite making just 27.6 percent.
He is mostly guilty of trying to do too much. Although you can fault his teammates for missing too many shots, it is the point guard’s job to get them the ball in the right spots.
Wayns needs to stop shooting from the outside and start getting to the basket and to the free-throw line more often. Cutting his turnovers would help too.
Yarou has made significant strides in his two years at Villanova. His scoring and rebounding are both up, scoring 13.8 points per game and adding 8.3 rebounds.
Yarou is difficult to grade, because even though he’s improved, he isn’t playing to his full potential. He is big and has great footwork, but he seems content to stand 15 feet away from the basket.
The biggest area of concern is that he just doesn’t seem to have basketball awareness, especially on defense. He should be blocking at least two shots a game, but he just always seems out of position.
Cheek was supposed to be an athletic, high-flying wing player capable of scoring and defending. He turned out to be a poor man's Andre Iguodala.
With his length and quickness, Cheek can guard almost any perimeter player. He has active hands and routinely disrupts passing lanes. He puts forth great effort on the defensive end of the floor.
Offensively Cheek has been an eyesore. A gifted athlete and leaper, he should be able to get the ball into the paint, but he is too passive and hangs around the three-point line.
He shoots five three-pointers per game and only knocks down 27.9 percent.
Bell has been one of the few bright spots in a dismal early season.
As a freshman Bell was seldom on the floor, so he has been a pleasant surprise. He plays tough defense, rebounds aggressively and seems to do the right things.
His outside shooting touch has been better than expected, evidenced by his 35 percent three-point shooting.
He averages just 8.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, but his production and effort provide a boost. Bell has probably been the most consistent game-to-game performer.
Hilliard has shown no fear as a freshman.
Hilliard was a lesser-regarded prospect next to his classmates, but he has proven to be a valuable asset. In limited minutes he is scoring 7.1 points and adding 3.9 rebounds per game.
With his long arms and athleticism he can be a lockdown perimeter defender. Offensively he is one of few players on the Villanova roster that seems willing to attack the rim.
His energy is a huge plus off the bench as is his surprising 37.5 percent shooting from long range.
A former McDonald's All-America, Pinkston is having a shaky season.
Pinkston is in his first season as a Wildcat due to a suspension last year. A year older than his fellow freshmen, he was expected to be more game-ready. That hasn’t been the case.
At 260 pounds, he should be a beast down low, but he falls in love with his athletic ability and half-decent outside shooting touch. He tries to take defenders off the dribble and fails to finish at the rim.
Defensively he plays with a lot of life, but he seems to get lost far too often. He looks very raw and inexperienced.
Kennedy is a very skilled big man who is rounding into form.
Another pleasant surprise in a disappointing start for Villanova. Kennedy is a behemoth at 6’9” and 260 pounds and he plays like it.
Kennedy looks uncomfortable at times and unsure of himself, but he keeps himself in the right spots. He gets deep position on the block on offense and shows good skill with the ball. He is also a very impressive passer out of the post.
If he gets into better shape he will develop into a force in the Big East.
Yacoubou wasn’t expected to be much of a factor this season, but he has exceeded those expectations. He is a great defender and a better shooter than advertised.
He doesn’t bring much else to the table at this point, but those are two of the most sought-after skills in college basketball and unlike some of his teammates, he knows his role.
Against Boston University, Yacoubou helped hold the Terriers’ leading scorer Darryl Partin to just six points on 2-of-15 shooting. Partin entered the game averaging 22.7 points per game.
The top recruit for the Wildcats this season has been the least impressive. Johnson was billed as a playmaker who can take defenders off the bounce. In his first 11 games at Villanova he has looked like he wanted no parts of the court.
He has been a microcosm of the problems that ail the Wildcats. He just seems timid and passive and not sure of where he is supposed to be on either end of the floor.
He has some growing up to do and fast.
Sutton is a promising big man, but is running out of time to develop.
Sutton is incredibly long and in his first two seasons appeared as if he would be a solid rebounder and defender off the bench.
Over his sophomore and junior seasons he averaged 2.3 rebounds and one block in just 10.4 minutes per game. This season he has blocked one shot total.
For some reason Sutton seems to have regressed. He is constantly out of position and gets called for a bad foul in every game he enters.
For the first time coach Wright appears at a loss for answers.
Wright has been too successful for far too long for anyone in their right mind to start clamoring for his demise. That said, he has overseen a late-season collapse in each of the last two seasons and is off to the worst start in his tenure.
There is ability on the roster, but it seems as though the players aren’t sure what they are supposed to be doing. Admittedly it is a very young group, but there is no excuse for juniors like Cheek and Yarou to underachieve.
Wright has loaded his squad with athletic players in the 6’4”-6’7” range. Instead of playing an aggressive offensive game, they just stand around the three-point line and settle for 20- to 25-foot jump shots.
Defensively, each player looks good defending on the ball, but as soon as the opponent runs a screen or a skip-pass or God forbid a pick-and-roll, it invariably ends up in a wide open look.
Jay Wright is a great coach, teacher and motivator, but something just seems off. It’s hard to imagine this team winning even six games in the Big East. A great coach would figure it out.
History is on Wright’s side, but down the road Villanova fans may not be.