Now that EuroJam 2011 has come and gone, it's time to review what we learned about the 2011-2012 version of the Villanova Wildcats, and what are still unkowns after their preseason tour of Europe. If you missed the EuroJam coverage, you can check the below game recaps and video highlights that were posted.
- Loss to Senegal 69-64
- Loss to Senegal 79-65
Victory over Israel 94-92 (video highlights)
Loss to The Netherlands 75-63 (video highlights)
- Loss to Georgia 87-54
As you can see from the scorelines, a young 'Nova squad appeared to be overmatched by the senior international teams (which should be expected), although they did pull off a huge win against the highest-ranked squad in the competition.
Join me after The Jump to explore what went on in Europe. Keep in mind we're going to ignore the games against Senegal since full stats weren't available.
Who's going to take over the scoring load?
Based upon the box score, the guys who are going to try are definitely going to be Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek, and Mouphtaou Yarou. Wayns and Yarou we always knew would benefit from the graduation of Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, but Cheek was the guy everyone was clamoring for to step up, but also the unknown because of a polarizing first few seasons on the Main Line.
Cheek's 34 points (15-19 shooting no less) against Israel was the kind of performance 'Nova fans will dream about. It's not realistic to expect anything close to that every night, but thoughts about him jumping to a 15 ppg guy in his junior year suddenly aren't unrealistic.
Should we read anything into Darrun Hilliard's presence in the starting lineup?
I personally wouldn't, and here's why. Ty Johnson is out with a broken foot, and the lack of a true backup point guard was evident (we'll get there in a bit). This trip, if nothing else, was a huge opportunity to get Hilliard some needed minutes handling the ball. It's scary to think that if Johnson's injury lingers, that's our last option.
And that's no knock against Hilliard, he actually played pretty well for the most part. But if you watch the video of the games, you'll see that's he shouldn't have to be an option backing up Leek. We'll all be rooting for the guy, but if he has to play extended minutes running the offense, it's going to be a long year.
He does look to be our best 3-point threat as of right now.
What's with the lack of assists from Wayns?
Honestly, I have no idea. The entire team recorded only 4 assists one game, and judging from our lack of off-the-dribble scorers last season, I have a hard time believing the stat guy was keeping an accurate count for that all-important metric. But to see others players with assists is odd.
Either way, he's going to need to average more than zero per game for 'Nova to have a successful season. He may be our best known scoring option going into the season, but he's going to need to be the playmaker as well.
So Yarou was pretty good, does he have a big year ahead of him?
Ab-so-friggan-lutely. Yarou played against legitimate senior international talents. Grown men. Guys who are in the NBA. And the big man more than held his own. He had some eye-popping numbers this tournament. And I'll come out and say it - if this is just a product of more touches - wow have we really screwed ourselves the last couple of seasons.
Just remember that Leek isn't the only guy with an eye towards and early exit to the NBA. Yarou could play himself into a 1st-round pick this year, and because he's a whiz in the classroom, he'll probably already be graduated by the time the draft rolls around.
What'd we learn about the newcomers?
Darrun Hilliard was the story of the trip, playing about 25 minutes per game and being a typical shat sheet stuffer. His point point, 8 rebound, 3 assist, 2 steal effort is the kind of line that the fans will be happy with for a guy who was the consensus weak-link in this recruiting class.
JayVaughn Pinkston naturally got a lot of minutes - about 20 per game, but there wasn't much that stood out about his performances. His 7 ppg average was a bit lower than we would have liked to see, but he was consistent in getting to the charity stripe about 4 times per game.
Markus Kennedy was exactly what we hoped for. Not much about him being overmatched by the size of the international opponents, and he rebounded the crap out of the ball. That's what we want. Oh, and there were multiple tweets about his passing ability. He's got an offensive game too.
Ash Yacoubou got some good minutes, but other than the finale against Georgia, didn't appear to push the issue much offensively. He got a late start to his 'Nova career due to a late high school graduation though. Might be too early to discern much from him.
What's the rotation going to look like this year?
Well, Maurice Sutton is definitely the odd-man out down low. He'll still see minutes as needed if the big boys get into too much foul trouble, but averaged less than 6 minutes per game. With Ty Johnson coming back and a definite for PT, Ash's minutes could take a hit as well since Hilliard looks set to be a part of the main crew.
Interestingly enough, Isaiah Armwood started every game, but averaged by far the least amount of minutes out of the starters. I think 15-18 minutes a game is perfect for him though, and I'm a big Zeek fan. Great energy guy, will be a pest defensively and rebounds like a mad man. There's a place for that in everyone's rotation.
What are we missing?
With Johnson, a true backup PG. Get well soon, kid. We also can't shoot worth a lick from deep either. I the 2 losses to The Netherlands and Georgia, we attempted 32 and 27 shots from downtown, respectively. Are you kidding me? First of all, we should never be taking that many longballs. Secondly, we know we don't have snipers, so why are we chucking. Oh and finally, we miss you Stokes.
How's James Bell looking after a busy summer?
Without being able to watch the game in it's entirety, it's tough to say. The one thing we can look at is the score sheet. While Bell didn't scorch the nets, he was looking for his shot, taking about 6 shots per game. That's probably a good amount for him, and when he's hot, that number can get a bit higher.
Bell was hailed for his defense with the USA team this summer, so we're expecting big things there, but again, with no broadcast of the games, we can't comment there.
What's the verdict?
I think you've got to be extremely pleased with the likelihood of Mouph and Dom stepping up this year. Both appear to be completely ready to really step into the spotlight. Leek will be Leek and will be our star player that everyone talks about - but he still needs to step it up and becoming 'The Man.'
I think you've also got to be impressed with the contributions of Hilliard and Kennedy. It's imperative that we get a good performance out of Markus to help take some pressure off Mouph down low, and I think he's up to it. Hilliard played out of position a ton, but was still looking very good out there.
I won't go as far to say I was unimpressed with Bell and Pinkston, because I didn't see the games, but I would have liked to see more (especially on the offensive end) from both players. Tahj looks more willing than JVP, but we need one of these two to emerge as a legitimate 4th scoring option.
Right now, I'm still expecting a transition year. The conference is going to be pretty strong at the top, and 'Nova isn't one of those top teams right now. They'll have a battle on their hands if they want to keep their NCAA tournament appearance streak alive.
What are your takeaways from the European tour?