Well, that was something we haven't experienced in quite sometime. The Villanova Wildcats finished the out-of-conference portion of their schedule with a 7-5 record. 7-5! I knew this year was going to be rough, but if you predicted we'd be 7-5 at this stage of the season, I would have called you mentally ill (or a drunk) back in October.
Even better (I'm in a post-holiday coma today and acting sort of like a masochist), the Big East starts tomorrow. On the road nonetheless! Jay Wright will take his team to Morgantown, where success has never been easy to find. So, prepare yourself for some more tough nights. Jay Wright's take:
We're going to have to live through that together, but that's not the worst thing in the world. A little humility is not bad for anybody.
I'll tell you who it's bad for - me. I wanna win dammit!
In the 1st part of this 2-part recap, let's take a look at one of the worst OOC performances in recent Villanova history.
Let's start off with the bad (I'm going to limit it to only 5 so as we don't gouge our eyes out before we can get to to the good).
The ghost of Dominic Cheek - Expectations were definitely raised following a strong summer session for the junior, and through the first couple of games, it looked like he was going to meet them. But with each passing game, it appears that Cheek-O wasn't quite ready for primetime. The most shocking aspect of it however, was his stubbornness to settle for jumpshots instead of attacking the rim and getting to the line - exactly the strategy that got him off to such a hot start this season. We're not even halfway through the season so we shouldn't write him off yet, but I've not seen much to make me believe that he can turn this around.
The two sides of Mouphtaou Yarou - It seems that on any given night, we can get one of two Mouph's. In year's past it's usually been his level of competition that has dictated his play - but not this year. Mouph has thrown up some very good games against quality competition (think of his game against Brian Conklin - Conk was nowhere to be found). Then again, he's had some real head scratchers - most notably last time out against American where if I told you he didn't play, you probably would have had to think hard to point out that he did register a couple of points.
A team of 3-point chuckers - As we've bemoaned time and time again in the comments - this is not a good 3-point shooting team. Sure, Tahj and Money can hit them when they're wide open (though they do appear to miss them just as often when wide open) but outside of those two, I'm not exactly even the boasting the tiniest bit of confidence when a 3-ball is tossed up. So then why is it that we routinely see this team taking 25+ a game? Who knows, but Jay Wright literally may need to start yanking players who are shooting them to bring this point home. Nothing else seems to be working.
Jay Wright's in-game coaching - I've been one of his biggest supporters of the years - and with good reason. This season is a big test for Wright. He doesn't have star-quality players like Scottie Reynolds or Randy Foye. And he's got a really young team that doesn't know how to win yet. It's the coach's job to put his team in the best spot to win - but so far Jay Wright has merely stuck to his guns and tried to use the same offense and gameplan that worked for the 'Nova teams of the past - to disastrous results (at least on offense). Coach needs to figure something out, or the 'young team' excuse isn't going to fly in February and March. Teams are supposed to improve as the year goes on, and Villanova has always gotten worse in the past few years.
The lack of a true leader - Maalik Wayns is the guy that needs to step up here. This is clearly his team, and it's plain to see that when things are not going well that the rest of the team looks to him. He didn't do a great job of handling it. He's still a high-volume, low-percentage shooter and he's made some killer mistakes late in games that have led to losses. I'm not asking him to be Kemba Walker (though that certainly would be nice!) but I am asking for a little more accountability and a higher level of performance. Wayns is one of the prime suspects in the case of the overzealous jumpshot case. He's a guy that can take ANYONE off the dribble, yet we haven't seen it. Is it too much to ask that he and Mouph (or anyone, really) develop a solid pick and roll? I feel like that should be lethal with a little practice. Let's continue to hope that Leek makes this team his own and raises the level of play of his teammates.
Later today we'll have part two of our look back - sure to be full of roses and positive thinking. Coincidentally, I'll also write it as I drink at an airport bar. Fun times!