Villanova is used to being picked among the top teams in the Big East. But this year is different.
After failing to win a game in the Big East tournament and NCAA tournament last season, the young ‘Cats were picked eighth in the preseason coaches’ poll.
Much of that has to do with the losses of Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena. Maalik Wayns, who was voted preseason All-Big East second team, is now the leader, Mouphtaou Yarou needs to become a dominant force down low, and James Bell and Dominic Cheek will enter the starting lineup.
Villanova coach Jay Wright believes a trip to Europe this summer really helped his team mesh and get ready for the season.
“When you have a young team, it takes some time,” Wright said. “But we were able to go away this summer, to Europe, together. And we really got a lot out of it. Our guys really came down together really quick.”
The ‘Cats, typically reliant on guard play, will have more size and bulk than usual with Yarou, Maurice Sutton, and freshmen JayVaughn Pinkston and Markus Kennedy in the front-court rotation.
“This summer Mouph [Yarou] played against a lot of NBA players on this foreign tour and I think his lowest output was 15 [points] and 12 [rebounds],” Wright said. “I think he’s ready to break out on the scene.”
Villanova will open on Nov. 11 at home against Monmouth. A projected eighth-place finish in the 16-team Big East may seem low, but maybe the lower expectations will benefit Wright’s young roster.
Big East football talks
The Big East still wants to expand to 12 teams for football.
The plan is to add SMU, Houston, UCF, Navy, Air Force and Boise St. They would join existing schools: UConn, Cincinnati, USF, West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers.
No invitations have gone out yet, according to commissioner John Marinatto.