On Saturday, St. John's travels to the city of Brotherly hate to face the Villanova Wildcats. I don't know about college ball games, but I know the pro games I've seen in the Illadelph are NOT filled with love for New Yorkers.
Still, I like Philly. And I like our Philly blog friends. And I like our "5 questions" series.
So in the next 2 days, you'll get THREE previews from the other side: one from VU Hoops, one from Villanova by the Numbers, and this first one from Chris at The Nova Blog, who kindly (and quickly!) answered some questions for the Rumble.
Here we go!
On Villanova's recent struggles, the Wildcats' short rotation, Corey "105" Fisher, JayVaughn Pinkston and more - below the fold.
1. A lot has been written about Villanova basketball's struggles - are these real struggles? Is the team pressing, do they have confidence issues?
It's some combination of the above. Corey Stokes has been dealing with injuries all season and they finally became too tough to deal with. I think that shook the team. There was only 1 go-to-guy at that point, and everyone else started pressing to step up, and that made things worse. Now that Stokes is back, I think you'll see us revert back to old times a bit more.
Confidence is definitely the biggest issue right now though. There is a great deal of talent on the floor, but guys like Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns are pretty short on confidence right now and it is showing in their play. This team needs a feel-good win (hopefully this Saturday) to get the ship righted.
2. Why has the rotation become so short? Where's Maurice Sutton?
Well for one, Maurice Sutton has somewhat of a discipline problem. He was suspended a game earlier this year and was suspended against Syracuse because he went out after curfew. Dude, you play college basketball. It's not hard to be in bed the night before a game at a decent hour.
Last year we had a legit 11 guys playing minutes, and roles were not clearly defined. This year we've shorted it to 8 (somewhat out of necessity since Taylor King and JayVaughn Pinkston are not around) and it's a better situation. Guys aren't wondering if they will play and how much they'll play, and they know what is expected out of them. Now it just comes down to executing.
3. Which players have you been impressed with? Which ones' performances have disappointed you?
Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena have impressed me the most. We were hoping for a big jump from both of them in their final years and they haven't disappointed. Fisher has been spectacular, but we expected that. James Bell coming back from a serious injury to perform has been a huge plus and we're excited for his future.
Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns are the biggest disappointments. I expected both to be sophomore stars, but they are more on the sophomore slump side of things. Cheek is just totally off right now. Nothing is falling his way. Wayns is uber-talented, but he makes some head-scratching decisions in the game more often than not.
4. Where could having JayVaughn Pinkston have helped the Wildcats? (Obviously a guess, since we've never seen him play the college game)
Depth for one. Excluding Sutton, we've got 3 guys capable of playing on the front line. He is a big body and was college-ready. He would be a huge help against teams like Pitt and Syracuse that have enormous front lines. We never got a great look at his offensive game, so no idea what to expect there, but one thing is clear - he will be thrown into the mix next year, so hopefully he is ready.
5. Does Corey Fisher have an NBA future? Can he lead the Wildcats deep into the NCAA Tournament?
You see games like the one against DePaul where he had 34 points, tons of steals, and basically took over the game. If a guy can do that, you'd think he has an NBA future. Then again, look at Scottie Reynolds. But Fisher is much more athletic, and a much more polished PG than Reynolds ever was. I think with a strong finish, he could go late-1st round. He's the perfect backup for a team like the Knicks that plays an up-tempo pace.
His leadership abilities have come into question this season though. He's clearly 'the guy' for 'Nova, but with Stokes out, the team struggled through a series of games. Corey needs to realize (and I think he will) that this is the end of his career. How does he want to be remembered? I think he'll step up and get this team into the 2nd weekend.