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).
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.
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
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
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
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
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