Hoops Mania energizes crowd for basketball season

Angie Matarozzi

Ah, Hoops Mania, one of the most exciting events for the Villanova community. Casual basketball fans enjoyed the dance routines and the secret performer,  ScHoolboy Q, who took onstage-selfies with Darrun Hillard and Daniel Ochefu. 

Die-hard ‘Nova basketball fans—which pretty much includes anyone who begged to trade for a coveted lower level ticket—took note of Jayvaughn Pinkston’s footwork in the short scrimmage and mentally kept track of Ryan Arcidiacono’s field goal percentage. 

The event itself was entertaining enough. Sophomore forward Darryl Reynolds wowed the crowd in the “Dancing with the Stars” portion of the night with his synchronized performance alongside the three dancing “Darryl-ettes.” The kid’s got moves and stage presence. It’s no wonder he was last year’s middle-of-the-huddle hype man—although it looks like charismatic freshman forward Mikal Bridges may give him a run for his money. 

Due to the length of the individual dance routines, the dunk contest was omitted from the night’s celebrations—a disappointment for fans hoping to see 6-foot-eleven-inch center Daniel “Super Dan” Ochefu defend last year’s title. 

In the three-point shooting contest, Darrun Hilliard hit all five shots from beyond the arc to lift his team—which included women’s basketball center Megan Quinn—to victory in the final round.  

On to the basketball nitty gritty side of things. 

This year’s Hoops Mania included a special celebration of the men’s 2014 Big East regular season championship. Last year’s senior guards, Tony Chennault and Nick McMahon, brought the Big East trophy to center court as the players received their championship rings. 

The Wildcats, who went 16-2 in the inaugural year of the New Big East and 29-5 overall, are the overwhelming favorites to win the conference again in the 2014-2015 season. 

‘Nova suffered the substantial loss of James Bell, who carried the team offensively with 14.4 ppg and shot an impressive 37 percent from beyond the arc. However, Jay Wright’s team has an unbelievable depth chart, particularly with the additions of freshman guard Phil Booth and forward Bridges, both ESPN top 100 recruits. 

The scrimmage teams were broken down as follows: 

White team: Darrun Hillard, Daniel Ochefu, Dylan Ennis, Kris Jenkins and Mikal Bridges. 

Blue team: Jayvaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Darryl Reynolds and Phil Booth. 

Each team got two walk-on players apiece to give the starting five a breather.

Aside from Darrun Hilliard missing the opening dunk of the night that was supposed to send celebratory streamers into the air, the short Hoops Mania scrimmage was uneventful. 

People seemed more eager to get down to the stage to watch the night’s performer than pay attention to the scrimmage—players included. 

The real fun came the following night. After a decisive Villanova football victory over Morgan State, fans and alumni filtered back into the Pavilion to watch the annual Blue and White Scrimmage hosted by Wright. The same scrimmage teams played each other in two 15 minute halves with a running clock. The White squad—led by Hilliard and Ochefu—took care of business, beating the Blue team decisively by a score of 47-28. They also outrebounded the Blue, 29-19. 

Hilliard, consistent as ever, led all scorers with 34 points. It took a few missed layups to get Ochefu going, but he ended the night with a double double—10 points and 12 boards. Ennis and Bridges pitched in nine points apiece. 

On the blue side, freshman Phil Booth lead the way with 10 points while Pinkston and Arcidiacono matched with six a piece. Pinkston, who was selected to preseason All Big East first team, was noticeably quiet in the scrimmage, possibly giving Booth the chance to shine in his first public performance as a Villanova Wildcat. 

Both freshmen were indeed impressive. Bridges was all over the boards, while Booth aggressively facilitated the Wildcat offense from the top of the arc. Neither seemed to have the typical first-year freshman jitters and looked comfortable playing under Wright’s watchful eye.

Villanova is set to play in its Nov. 4 exhibition at the Pavilion against Rollie Massimino’s Northwood squad to celebrate  the 30th Anniversary of the Wildcats’ National Championship.

As the season unfolds, Wright will look to the senior leadership of Pinkston and Hilliard, who are both facing pivotal years in their Villanova basketball careers. 

After last year’s memorable season, which included a Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament Championship, a Big East Regular Season Championship and a two seed in the NCAA Tournament, the new 2014-2015 squad will have extremely large shoes to fill. Luckily, the boys seem up to the challenge. 

Let’s enjoy the ride.