Once again, Villanova is well-stocked with guards

Posted: November 05, 2013

There are a lot of guards running around in the preseason on Villanova's Davis Center practice floor, and that makes Jay Wright happy.

Wright has seen some good guard groupings on his court on a fairly regular basis over the years. Randy Foye and Allan Ray arrived on the Main Line in 2002 and combined with Kyle Lowry and Mike Nardi to carry the Wildcats to within one win of the NCAA semifinals in 2006.

That Final Four berth came around in 2009 thanks to the play of guards Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Reggie Redding, and Corey Stokes. Maalik Wayns joined the delegation the following season for another NCAA trip.

While no one is predicting a Final Four for the 2013-14 Wildcats, Wright likes the set of guards he has assembled, a group with shooting ability, toughness, and quickness, and a playing rhythm that pleases him.

"We're a lot more comfortable in how we're playing," said Wright, who, in his 13th season, is the longest-tenured coach at one school in the reconfigured Big East Conference. "We had a scrimmage where we were able to play four guards, three guards, a lot. We took care of the ball much better.

"It's not just having guards; it's having experienced guards here. Last year, I thought we were a little young at the guard spot. So I think it's going to help us."

The guard corps has been reduced by one for at least the first month of the regular season, which starts Friday. Sophomore Dylan Ennis, a rugged and energetic transfer from Rice, broke a bone in his right hand on Oct. 24.

"It's definitely going to affect our depth," Wright said.

Still, the Wildcats begin with four holdovers in the backcourt from last season's 20-14 team that returned to the NCAA tournament. Sophomore Ryan Arcidiacono, seniors Tony Chennault and James Bell, and junior Darrun Hilliard are joined by freshman Josh Hart, who "naturally fits how we like to play," according to Wright.

The 6-foot-3 Arcidiacono, the former Neshaminy High star who was the team's second-leading scorer and top three-point shooter last season, loves the idea of three or four guards on the court at the same time.

"It'll be matchup nightmares," he said. "If [the opponent] keeps in their two bigs and we've got four guards, we can just put that guard at the top and let him go. If our bigs get in foul trouble, we could go small, and that means we're going to have to team-rebound and play team defense."

Added Chennault, "Everybody has the ability to go off the bounce, so the court is going to be spread a lot within our offense, and there's going to be more opportunities for us to score."

The Wildcats can put some sizable guards on the floor. Hilliard, who thrived in Big East competition last season, and Bell are 6-6 and Hart is 6-5.

The added experience in the backcourt is expected to improve two areas of weakness for the Wildcats last season. They averaged 15.7 turnovers, last in the conference, and allowed opponents to shoot 37 percent from three-point range.

Wright's biggest concern entering the season is rebounding. The Cats no longer have 6-foot-10 Mouphtaou Yarou controlling the boards and the interior defense, and that means 6-11 sophomore Daniel Ochefu must step up.

Junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston, who is healthy after a summer scare with MRSA, will provide rebounding help and frontcourt scoring after leading the Cats in scoring last season. Freshman Kris Jenkins, at 6-6 and 255, could assist in both categories.

Wright wants to work in his freshmen slowly, but with Ennis sidelined, they might have to play more in the early going.

"We've got six guys returning, and I hope they can carry the load enough and not have our freshmen in pressure situations," he said. "But foul trouble and things like that happen, so we're probably going to have to use them. I think they're both ready. It's something that will help our depth in the long run."


Villanova at a Glance

Last year: 20-14; 10-8 in Big East, tied for seventh place.

Coach: Jay Wright (257-144 in 12 years at Villanova; 379-229 overall).

ROSTER

No.   Name   Pos.   Ht.   Wt.   Year   

0   Henry Lowe   G   5-11   185   So.   

2   Kris Jenkins   F   6-6   255   Fr.   

3   Josh Hart   G   6-5   202   Fr.   

4   Darrun Hilliard   G   6-6   215   Jr.   

5   Tony Chennault   G   6-2   195   Sr.   

12   Nick McMahon   G   6-0   165   Sr.   

14   Darryl Reynolds   F   6-8   225   Fr.   

15   Ryan Arcidiacono   G   6-3   195   So.   

20   Patrick Farrell   F   6-5   200   So.   

22   JayVaughn Pinkston   F   6-7   240   Jr.   

23   Daniel Ochefu   C   6-11   245   So.   

31   Dylan Ennis   G   6-2   192   So.   

32   James Bell   G/F   6-6   220   Sr.   

SCHEDULE

November

8 Lafayette. . . 8

13 Mount St. Mary's. . . 7

17 Towson. . . 5

22 Delaware. . . 7

28 Southern Cal#. . . 1

29 Kansas or

Wake Forest#. . . TBD

30 TBD#

December

4 Penn. . . 8

7 at St. Joseph's. . . 6

15 La Salle. . . 2:30

21 Rider. . . 4

28 at Syracuse. . . 1

31 at Butler. . . 7:30

January

5 Providence. . . 7

8 at Seton Hall. . . 7

11 at St. John's. . . 1

18 DePaul. . . 4

20 Creighton*. . . 7

25 at Marquette. . . 2

27 at Georgetown. . . 9

February

1 at Temple. . . 4

3 Xavier. . . 7

7 Seton Hall. . . 7

12 at DePaul. . . 7

16 at Creighton. . . 5

18 at Providence. . . 7

22 St. John's*. . . 1:30

26 Butler. . . 8

March

2 Marquette*. . . 2

6 at Xavier. . . 7

8 Georgetown*. . . 2

12-15 Big East Tournament, New York

Home games in bold.

# - Battle 4 Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas

* - at Wells Fargo Center


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@JoeJulesInq

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