clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Fist-Pumps and Slam-Dunks

Last season, Villanova travelled to the Jersey shore to face Monmouth University in their new gymnasium, this season, the Hawks will return the favor by traveling to the Main Line to face the Wildcats in their season opener. The two teams have faced off a few times recently, but Monmouth is still searching for their first victory.

The Hawks are batting 1.000 against the Wildcats in athletic competitions this season (1 game, 1 Monmouth win), but in basketball, the divide is a bit more noticeable.

At the end of last season, Monmouth fired longtime head coach Dave Calloway, who had held the position since 1998. To replace him, they brought in former Vanderbilt assistant and UNC point guard, King Rice. Rice grew up in New York state and had also previously coached at Providence College.

Last season, Villanova blew out a struggling Monmouth in West Long Branch, New Jersey, but only two starters from that Monmouth team return this season. Those two returners are, conveniently, also Monmouth's top two scorers, 6-7 senior forward Mike Myers Keitt (10.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and 6-5 junior forward Ed Waite (9.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg).

They may also feature an experienced center in 7-0 Phil Wait, who transferred from St. John's. Wait, who hails from Manchester, England, averaged 5.4 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Hawks in 16 minutes per game last season.

Returning to their backcourt will be senior guard Will Campbell, who spent much of last season on a suspension for academic reasons. Campbell averaged 8.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg and 1.2 apg in the 2010-11 campaign. Another senior guard, Gary Cox, was also suspended last season for academic reasons, but has returned to good standing — two others did not return to good standing and have left the program.

Jesse Steele, a point guard, finished third on the team in scoring last year with 8.9 ppg, despite coming off of the bench at the point for much of the season. It should be expected that his role could increase substantially this season.

King has been working hard to try to correct the problems that the team had last season. They were picked to finish 10th in the NEC after finishing 11th last season, but had a lot of close games in the process. King hopes that a few changes can turn some close losses into wins this season.

One of those changes was the decision to hold practices at 5:00 am, to take the team out of its comfort zone.

If those changes have any effect, the Wildcats will be likely see their effect on Friday night. Last year the 'Cats shot 50% from the field against Monmouth, but only 31.8% from deep. Both Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou were able to score in double-digits (Yarou scored 14 points).

In these early-season contests, the biggest key to winning is to show up and take the opponent seriously. Villanova would benefit from more efficient shooting than they exhibited against NYIT in Tuesday's exhibition game. In that game, the 'Cats shot just 24% from beyond the arc, but 45% from the floor.

Villanova will also be looking for Maalik Wayns to put up another solid performance. He scored 21 points against NYIT, but more importantly had 7 assists. Wayns only turned the ball over one time in that game. Last season, Wayns averaged 4.5 assists and 2.8 turnovers per game, but he will need to do better this season as the primary point guard on the team.

Those assists would open up opportunities for teammates like Mouph Yarou or James Bell, who, on Tuesday, connected on 50% and 80% of their shots from the field, respectively. Dominic Cheek also has the potential to make use of those opportunities, but struggled with his shot in the exhibition game.

JayVaughn Pinkston will potentially be given the opportunity to play significant minutes in this game. The redshirt freshman is still "rusty" from having spent much of last season away from the game. He could work out on his own or find a pick-up game nearby, but hasn't had much opportunity to play against other Division I athletes. When that rust wears off, however, Jay Wright expects him to shine.

"It’s taken him a little bit of time to work his way back," Wright told the Sporting News. "I think he’s going to be a real significant player for us."'

Pinkston will spend much of this season battling for the 5th starting spot with freshmen Markus Kennedy and Darrun Hilliard. When Hilliard plays, the line-up would have four true-guards, while Kennedy provides some size inside. Pinkston has the potential to play at either the 3 or 4, and provides a bulky frame that is difficult to push around by many.

Villanova should have better athletes than Monmouth and should be able to outclass an NEC opponent. Failure to execute a game plan or swiss-cheese defense could let Monmouth give Villanova a greater challenge than last season. If that is the case, the 'Cats will have a lot of growing to do this season and expectations will remain low.