We might have had Chris from VU Hoops on the podcast, but it's a long week, so why not have another member of the VU Hoops crew on to talk about the Villanova/ St. John's matchup in the Garden?
Q// On the Not Half Bad podcast, Chris Lane talked about Villanova's solid start - players who know their roles, a defense that works, and trusted freshmen. Tell us about the great Villanova season so far - was this a surprise? What is it that they are doing so well?
Brian, VU Hoops: It's definitely a surprise. Villanova fans probably expected a competitive team that would make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Nobody expected 11-0 to start the season, nobody expected a win over Kansas or a top-10 ranking. This team just plays well together. Great chemistry means better passing and better defense than we saw a few years ago. There have been some great individual performances -- James Bell looked unstoppable early -- but it has really been the way the team has come together.
Q// Is there a narrative about Ryan Arcidiacono having a lackluster sophomore year? He looks pretty good to me. How has he struggled, how has he succeeded?
Brian: Sure, and he has been generally pretty terrible shooting the 3 this season. There is also something to be said in his favor. Without pressure on him to be the primary source of offense for this team, he hasn't pushed his own button nearly as often, using just 15.7% of possessions. He cut his turnovers down by more than 50% from last season, and actually has a better shooting percentage from the field. He just hasn't made many from deep.
Overall, his scoring is down (but Villanova overall is more balanced), his 3-point shooting is worse (but he has made big shots), and his free throw percentage has declined. In general though, he hasn't been as much of a liability as some people think.
Q// How have the Wildcats been so successful at defending the interior (allowing 41% shooting inside the arc before Wednesday's game vs. Seton Hall)?
Brian: Daniel Ochefu is big and good at defense and JayVaughn Pinkston is strong enough to battle inside. Defensively, they've generally been good at handling their assignments around the court (and switching when needed), which means that they alter shots and deny a lot of the highest-percentage tries.
Q// Is there any danger factor in facing a near-desperate St. John's squad in their first Big East home game this season? How can the Wildcats be undone on the court?
Brian: I suppose you could call this a "Classic Trap Game," but I don't think Villanova is going to look past anyone. They've been pushed by a few opponents already and showed that they can keep their heads in a game. St. John's is likely going to give the 'Cats all they've got, but I don't expect Villanova to lose because they're not ready for it. The only team to beat Villanova was Syracuse and their zone certainly gave Nova some fits. It takes good, energetic, guard play and some lights-out shooting from deep to cause trouble against this defense.
Q// If you're stranded on a desert island with hope of return to cvivilization but only if you are crafty and creative, and you have to pick one Villanova player from the last four years to join you, who do you pick and why?
Brian: Scottie Reynolds. . . . Wait, I can't pick Scottie Reynolds? Well, this sucks. I'll take Ryan Arcidiacono, who has a little streak of Scottie in his DNA. On average, over the last year and a half, he has definitely done more on the court compared to his level of athleticism than most of the other Villanova players of the past four years.
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- St. John's basketball alumni update. Jan. 7
- NHB Podcast 11: tumultuous opening week for Johnnies, promise for Rutgers, and a guest from the Villanova side