DePaul just got a big win over Providence on the road on Thursday night, but on Saturday they'll be back at it again. Villanova comes to Allstate Arena for a Saturday game. Brian from VUHoops.com was kind enough to answer some questions. Unfortunately he won't be getting any tempo-free goodies from me, because Blue Demons Lair took up the challenge instead.
CCB - Villanova is getting ready for a big post season run. Since there's no way the Wildcats don't make the tournament, how far do you think they'll go?
VUH - That's a really tough question, especially this season. A few weeks ago, right after that Syracuse game, I would have told you that Villanova was a team capable of playing for a Final Four berth.
Since the Rutgers game their defensive rating has been tanking on KenPom and that is never a good sign. There really isn't a ton of time left for them to improve, but if they can start to get back to the promise of earlier this season they can maybe still get to the Elite Eight.
I'd have to see the actual bracket, but they'll be a high enough seed that they should at least get to the second weekend.
CCB - You look at 'Nova's schedule and it's a bunch of close losses, wins and then a 15-point loss at Providence? What happened there? Have the problems been addressed?
VUH - Hard to really explain that one. Corey Stokes had a bad shooting night from three and nobody else really picked up the slack.
They also didn't really lock it down on defense in that game and stuck with a 1-2-2 zone-press that Providence was breaking with ease.
CCB - People think Villanova and they think guards. But Mouphtaou Yarou and Antonio Pena are pretty darn good forwards. What's the key to their games?
VUH - Yarou is a big, strong body in the post. He has some good instincts and he's really still developing as a player. In the last few weeks we have seen him play with a little more aggression and confidence. Continuing to grow in confidence and using his strength to overpower guys is what will be key to his game.
Pena has been playing more outside of the paint than in. He had done a good enough job at the 5 when Villanova was running it's four-guard sets in the past, but he matches up better with opposing 3's and 4's. Offensively, he has developed a nice jump shot and can connect on shots that have a pretty good range.
CCB - Villanova has had a little bit of a problem hanging onto the ball in conference play. Any chance that comes back to bite them against DePaul's press?
VUH - Short answer: Yes.
Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns have a tendency to try to do too much in close games like that and that usually results in mistakes. If they let the game come to them, and don't try to create something that isn't there, there shouldn't be a lot of turnovers.
Honestly, a lot of those turnovers came in half-court sets rather than against a press (though Wayns did commit one of the more egregious ones against a press). The 'Cats have been trying to slow things down on offense lately, and that has oftentimes caused them to scramble to get a shot off before the shot clock goes off -- and that has caused more than a few turnovers.
CCB - Finally, with three seniors playing prominent roles, how do you feel about their careers at Villanova? How do you feel looking forward?
VUH - Corey Fisher has easily had the best career of those three. Prior to last year, Corey Stokes and Pena were really more role-players than key pieces, and it shows how far they have come.
Prior to the turf-toe, Stokes had really turned himself into a key player rather than a pure shooter -- he improved his ball-handling (though, he's still not a point guard) and gets a lot more respect from defenders in that regard.
Jay Wright recruits at such a high level that it's impossible for me to predict doom and gloom at any point in the future. It will be sad to see this group leave school, but they're being followed up with plenty of talent. James Bell really showed us something against Seton Hall and he will only get better, while there are five new players coming next season (including JayVaughn Pinkston, a former McDonald's All-American who will be readmitted this summer).
I expect a small step back next year with no seniors, but the sophomore class is getting a lot of experience right now, so they have a chance to be a good team again next year.
A big thanks to Brian for answering the questions. Be sure to check out the game on ESPN3 at 11 a.m. CT. (Really early start!)