Basketball on the horizon




It’s something Villanova fans have known was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with. It was easy to ignore it and pretend it would never happen, but now it has. It’s life after Scottie Reynolds.

After four years of watching Reynolds run the court, a Villanova team without him is hard to imagine. However, Wildcat fans can take solace in the fact that at the end of last season, the team’s reliance on him actually decreased. As opposing teams focused their defensive efforts on Reynolds, other members of the squad had to step up. This season, they’ll have to take over Reynolds’ role completely.

The challenge is daunting, but it hasn’t lowered anyone’s expectations. Villanova enters the season ranked No. 6 in the country, proving that the days when Jay Wright’s squads weren’t expected to be a national powerhouse every year are gone.The Wildcats certainly have the tools to get the job done — it’ll be a question of whether or not they can keep momentum going as they move through conference play and into the postseason, which they failed to do last year. Here are four story lines to follow as the season progresses.

Corey Fisher’s Time to Shine

With Reynolds out of the picture, Fisher will need to fill in not only as a scorer and ball-handler, but also as a leader in his senior season. When games come down to the wire, it’ll be Fisher the Wildcats look to for the clutch shots that used to be Reynolds’ responsibility.

We all know Fisher can explode offensively and finish acrobatic drives to the hoop, but his ability to lead a team and control the flow of a game is untested. It’ll take an adjustment in his style of play for him to do so successfully.

Fisher received a preseason Wooden All-American nomination, naming him one of the top 50 players in the country. If he can live up to the hype, Villanova’s success will follow.

The Maturation of Last

Season’s Four Freshmen

Jay Wright wasted no time in getting 2009’s recruiting class involved, as Mouphtaou Yarou, Dominic Cheek, Maalik Wayns and Isaiah Armwood all saw a bevy of significant playing time.

This year, Cheek and Wayns will combine with Fisher to continue Villanova’s tradition of having one of the best backcourts in the country.

Armwood will likely see even more time as well, while Yarou will combine with senior Antonio Peña to give the Wildcats good size in the frontcourt.

The lineup certainly looks threatening, and the four sophomores will play a pivotal role in it.

The team was very good last season — if having a year under their belt has improved the sophomores significantly, they could easily make this year even better.

Offensive production shouldn’t be a problem for this group, and opponents will have their hands full dealing with its numerous weapons.

If Yarou and Peña can anchor the defense and take care of the boards down low, especially against the bigger, physical Big East opponents, another high seed in the NCAA tournament isn’t an unreasonable expectation.

Intense Big East


As usual, the Big East will be one of the toughest conferences in the country.

The coach’s poll picked Pittsburgh as the favorite to win the Big East title, with Villanova in the second slot.

Syracuse, Georgetown and West Virginia, in that order, round out the top 5.

There’s no such thing as a favorable schedule in this conference, but the Wildcats didn’t luck out, either. Of the three teams Villanova faces twice, two of them are Pitt and Syracuse.

Rutgers is the other, but that doesn’t make up for two games against the other best two teams in the Big East.

The Wildcats are used to the competition, however, and they should be able to handle the rigorous schedule.

What’s important is how they finish.

Last year’s postseason didn’t do the team’s regular season success any justice, and the players should be motivated to ensure that that doesn’t happen again.


Villanova has earned NCAA tournament berths for six straight years now and has advanced to at least the Sweet 16 in four of them. Jay Wright has begun to establish himself and his team as the type of powerhouse that becomes a regular both in the Big Dance and at the top of the national rankings. Yet even after following the Final Four run with a year of being ranked in the top 25 in the polls, the Wildcats simply did not receive the hype that programs like Duke, North Carolina, Connecticut and Michigan State are familiar with year in and year out. So when does ‘Nova get some respect?

ESPN has scheduled College Gameday to be on campus for a Feb. 12 matchup against Pitt at the Pavilion.

If the players can rise to the challenge, and the fans can rock the Pavilion in the fashion that the Cameron Crazies do each game for Duke, it’ll be a huge step toward ‘Nova Nation gaining a higher level of recognition.

So prepare for that matchup and for every game of the 2010-11 season. And, above all, enjoy the ride.