Today, we welcome the contribution from Brian at VU Hoops to the page. He's already posted my responses, I can do no less! Go and read his site. Villanova is very well covered with smart fan/ blog conversation; I hope St. John's coverage gets that good and insightful.
I'd also like to take a moment to say that the splash page for the Villanova basketball site tells me that tickets are still on sale. It's only a train ride down, New Yorkers, and some navigation of Philadelphia transportation - which isn't as smart or comprehensive as New York City transport, but still! Take the Wells Fargo Center over!
Now, VU Hoops's responses to the questions on Villanova's sudden swoons, keys to the team, the struggles of the sophomore class, Jay Wright's stylishness, and whether the man that Coach Steve Lavin is "attracted to" is going to leave for, say, the University of Illinois anytime soon, below the fold.
1. Tell me about the negativity/ disappointment around Villanova basketball. Is it a creation in writers' minds? Are the fans annoyed/ upset? Do the Wildcats have real fundamental issues? And is there any evidence that the team is pressing or has confidence issues?
It's not an artificial creation, Villanovans have not been happy with this team since February. A lot of fans seem convinced that the season is over and the team won't win another game. I was so dismayed by the reaction after the latest loss that I wrote a blog post trying to talk fans off of their ledge.
The issue for Villanova changes from game to game, but the biggest problem in the close games has been an inability of the supporting cast to hit their shots. In the last two games, only one player connected on a shot from 3-point range, the rest of the team put up an O-fer. Shooting generally from the field has been bad too, with even layups being a struggle.
Despite that, pretty good defense has kept Villanova in games. In fact, if Corey Stokes hadn't been a little rusty at the free-throw line on Monday, I suspect that the result of that game might have been different.
2. Which player is key to the Villanova offense - not who takes the most shots, but which one is the most indispensable?
There are so many ways I can go with that question. It's pretty easy to say "Corey Stokes" as the answer -- he's easily the most consistent shooter on the team and has the best range as well. It would also be easy to point to Corey Fisher, as the primary ball-handler he has a lot to do with what happens on offense on any possession.
The real answer may actually be Mouphtaou Yarou, though. He leads the team on the offensive boards and that allows some of those missed shots on a bad night to be less damaging to the team overall.
3. How is the stellar sophomore class doing? I see Dominic Cheek is struggling to make shots, but Mouph Yarou looks really solid, for example.
Wayns has definitely seemed to take a step back after being handed more responsibility this season, and he lost his starting job for a while as well. Cheek is still pretty good on the defensive end, but his shot has disappeared in conference play (though, he was perfect from the field against South Florida).
Armwood and Yarou have been getting a lot of time and starts lately. Armwood is mostly a defensive and rebounding presence still, but I have faith that his offensive game will continue to improve and develop. Yarou still needs to get more confidence in his offensive ability, but he is certainly the most successful member of the class so far.
I have seen a lot of good from that class. I think they will all continue to grow into their roles and in the next two years they will have plenty of opportunities to do so.
4. Do you expect the Wildcats to go far in the NCAA Tournament this year? How is this different than your preseason expectations?
In the preseason I expected a reasonable NCAA run with a solid chance at a Final Four season. My current expectation is a first round win and hopefully a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. I think there is still a small chance that they could get further, but they really need to play well on offense AND defense at the same time in almost ever game from now on.
5. On Villanova's big men - how do they handle zones and traps? Is it me, or are they a little turnover-prone?
Well, it's not just you. Ideally I'd like to see them get more help from the guards when defenses get them in those situations. Pena has been caught in some tough spots now that Jay Wright has him spending some time out on the perimeter, and when he doesn't get some help from the guards, turnovers are likely.
6a. Does Jay Wright ever get bedhead, or does his stylist live in a carriage house?
Jay Wright sleeps with his hair in a hyperbaric chamber, like Gilbert Arenas. If anything his hair gets the bends.
6b. Any news about those pesky "Jay Wright might leave" rumors?
I don't believe any of them. Isn't this the same Jay Wright that turned down insane money at UK and turned down the Sixers not long ago?
Any rumor about Jay Wright going somewhere like Illinois is going to come up pretty regularly, but he just bought a GIANT new house near campus, his wife is a lawyer in Philadelphia and they both have a ton of family connections to the area. It'd take a lot to get him to leave.
That said, there is a rumor that Wright would be more receptive to job offers elsewhere if the University doesn't move the football program to the Big East. That might just be a fundraising pitch to get the football money out of boosters' wallets though.