Chris Carmona

The men’s basketball team is looking forward to a highly anticipated return to the hardwood, as they have four starters back on campus, including second-team All Big East selection Ricky Wright and leading scorer Gary Buchanan.

Along with experience, Villanova is bringing a freshmen class that was ranked among the best in the nation by most major recruiting publications. With such a star-laden lineup, much anticipation for the team’s success follows.

Coach Wright commented on the team’s expectations.

“We know that the expectations this year are much different than they were last year. We have to have our own values within our basketball family, though.”

The cause of all of this anticipation results in a simple answer: four McDonald’s All Americans.

Jason Fraser, Curtis Sumpter, Allan Ray and Randy Foye arrive to Villanova with great expectations on their backs.

Fraser, the most renowned of the stars, is viewed as a terrific defender and an overall smart player. This on-court intelligence will be necessary as he may be expected to replace the hole left in the starting lineup by the departure of center Brooks Sales to graduation.

Fraser was rated the 18th best recruit in the nation by and was heavily recruited by many big teams, ultimately choosing Villanova. The only obstacle Fraser must overcome is that at the collegiate level, he must use more than just size to score. His defensive game is completely fundamentally sound, so as long as he relies on skills and ball handling more as well as size and athleticism, great things can be expected.

At guard, Villanova will have Gary Buchanan returning.

Already scoring 1,399 career points in his Villanova career, Buchanan is looking to move up from 24th on the all-time scoring list.

He led Villanova with a 42 percent three-point shooting percentage, also the best in the Big East conference. However, what Buchanan is perhaps most well-known for is his deadly range from the charity stripe.

Over the past three years, he has shot a 94, 92 and 91 percent from the line.

This season the team will be looking for Buchanan to improve his defensive game and create more shots for his teammates.

Standout power forward Ricky Wright is returning to the frontcourt position this year to help lead Villanova.

Wright emerged as Villanova’s chief interior scoring threat, coming through with nine double-doubles last season to go along with a stellar 53 percent shooting percentage.

Last year, Wright began to emerge as a team leader, partially through maturity and partially through necessity. Coach Wright is looking for him to do the same thing this season.

Andrew Sullivan is another experienced senior who brings multiple skills to the table at starting forward. He’s the most defensively sound player on the team, but needs to build confidence in his offensive game to help contribute. Of all the players on the team, Sullivan has shown the most improvement from season to season. Judging by the dedication he has shown to improving his game thus far, fans and critics alike can reasonably expect more of the same.

Finally, Derrick Snowden will return for his junior season to start at the point guard position.

Despite inconsistency in the first half , Snowden was among Villanova’s top players by the second half of the year. He has a unique style to his position, which Coach Jay Wright enjoys.

“By the end of the year [Snowden] got a feel for it and could put his own signature on the point guard position. We don’t want him to be a clone. We want him to use his ability so that he can become a very unique and efficient guard in the Big East.”

This season, Snowden will be able to play without the constant worry of getting in foul trouble, as this year’s bench should provide him with more help.

The Wildcats will need all of their players from freshman to seniors if they want to have a successful season. The schedule they have in front of them is going to be a long and grueling one and any sort of slump could be disastrous for them. Their very first game is against Marquette, who returns a very strong core of players and is ranked No. 19 in the ESPN/USA today poll. Furthermore the schedule only gets harder from the first game on and doesn’t stop until the last game of the season, which just happens to be against fourth-ranked Big East rival, Pittsburgh.

Throughout their long schedule Villanova players will be asked repeatedly to not only match but beat some of the best players in the nation, and on more than one occasion.

The first name that comes to mind when discussing the Big East is Pittsburgh’s point guard, arguably the premier point guard in the nation, Brandin Knight.

The Wildcats will have the task of meeting Knight and his Pittsburgh team twice this season, the latter of which is the last game of the season right before the Big East championship. The ‘Cats are also going to have face Troy Bell, another top point guard in the nation, and the Eagles of Boston College.

But it only gets harder as they are scheduled to play Marcus Hatten, one of the best pure scorers and a sure NBA first rounder, when they face St. John’s.

Yet the games continue and include Darius Rice and the Miami Hurricanes and one of the biggest rivalries against Benji Gordon and Emeka Okafor of the UConn Huskies. These players and their teams are some of the best in the nation and managing to come away with one win will be an accomplishment.

Perfection is a lofty goal and perhaps it should not be expected. W

What can be expected, however, are some great games between Big East rivals in a conference that could easily see over five teams get tournament bids. The talented Villanova team will need all they have to survive their tough schedule and their even tougher opponents.