If you missed part 1 of our out-of-conference schedule recap, check it out here.
Ever the eternal optimist that I am (something that is seriously being tested by this year's 'Nova team), I'm now sitting in the Big Apple Bar in the US Airways Terminal of LaGuardia Airport with a bright outlook for the rest of the season. You wanna know why?
Part of it has to do with the 2nd healthy Jameson on the rocks that the leper who's tending bar just poured me, but most of it has to do that we're now playing with house money for the rest of the season. There are literally no expectations. Hell, we could be looking at a losing record when this season is finished. I can cope with that, because I've come to terms with the fact that this team just isn't as good as we'd hoped they would be.
So I can look for the positives for the rest of the season and hopefully watch this team grow together - because more likely than not we're going to have everybody back (save maybe Maurice Sutton) for next season. Join me after The Jump for 5 things I'm excited about as we enter conference play.
A legitimate post-scoring big man - Markus Kennedy seems to be one of the few things we nailed in our expectations of this season. While his conditioning is still a work in progress, big #21 is the first legit post-presence (no, I'm not counting Mouphtaou Yarou as that) that we've had in my 7-8 years of watching 'Nova hoops. Jason Fraser was derailed by injuries, Dante Cunningham was most definitely a tweener, but MK has shown that he's got a complete game down low. He's got slick post moves on offense, he knows how to play post defense and help defense on the perimeter. Oh, and he can rebound the crap out of the basketball. As his confidence continues to grow, so will his performances on the court. I'm friggan stoked that he's only a freshman.
Darrun Hilliard looks like he'll do just fine - The
recruiting experts people who cover recruiting suggested that Darrun Hilliard was just a throw-in to the 2011 recruiting class. Completely wrong. So far, he looks like he's got the trust of Jay Wright more than any other freshman, and while his performances have been a bit up and down, he's shown that's he's not only capable of playing high-end D1 ball, but that's he's capable of being a starter. He's definitely not all that athletic and he's not going to take over a game - but he's shown the ability to step up and make big shots and big plays (think of that steal against La Salle to send the game to OT) and that's way more than anyone expected this season.
JayVaughn Pinkston is on the uptick - JVP started off his Villanova career like the final 30 minutes of John Belushi's E! True Hollywood story - just a trainwreck. But to the trained eye, he was actually doing all the right things. Snatching boards, getting to the rim at will, not playing outside of his comfort zone. Really, the shots weren't dropping. Then, the shots started dropping and all of a sudden after a year away from organized ball his confidence was back and you could see the talent and why everyone was so excited when he chose Villanova. His game is built for the Big East and I think we're going to see him carry the team in more than a few games in the upcoming months. He's one of the few guys on the team who seems to understand that the best shots are shots taken around the rim instead of from 25 feet away. He should be playing 30+ minutes a night (too bad he, like MK, needs to improve his conditioning).
We've already hit rock bottom - To me, losing to St. Joe's is always rock bottom. It literally does not get any worse for me (I've got several 'friends' who are either students or graduates of that place) and I cannot stand losing to them. And it doesn't happen often, making the rare occurrence that much worse. Everything is looking up from here. We could go into West Virginia on Wednesday and get run out of the building by 30 and I'd still feel fine. But even if you don't share that view, that was a horrid OOC performance. It really can't get much worse.
As mentioned above, everyone
is should be coming back - I'm not throwing away this season, but it's a very comforting feeling that in reality, this is in no way a throw away season, but rather a season to grow. Everyone on the roster should be back next year in addition to two blue-chippers in Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu (and maybe, just maybe, Amile Jefferson). Maalik Wayns seems like the only flight risk, but with the season he's having, he's not getting drafted anywhere in the 1st round, so it would be pointless to leave. That's really encouraging to think that everyone will be a year older and wiser.
So if all else fails, we've got that! How's that for a rosy-eyed outlook?!