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Foundation for the Future?


Mike Jensen produced an excellent column in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning on Jay Wright's rebuilding project on the Main Line. Jensen doesn't refer to it as a rebuilding project though, he calls it "starting over," and after the 19-loss campaign in 2011-12 and the loss of two junior guards to the NBA draft, Jay Wright looks to hit the reset button on his program.

Among the insights of the piece:

  • "There were some recruiting decisions, there were some decisions on style of play for this year, there was development of players . . . a little bit of each," Wright said of what lead to the awful 2012 campaign.
  • Jensen writes: "There's a reason he got in the market for transfers, especially strong ballhandlers. Development alone won't resurrect Villanova, at this point."
  • Current high school juniors are viewed as crucial recruits to Jay Wright. That is the last class that will likely be impacted by the success leading up to the 2009 Final Four run.
  • Villanova changed a few program philosophies after the Final Four, to rely less on ball-handlers and get bigger to try and match the teams that knocked Villanova out of the tournament during that seven-year run — often going on to win the title themselves.
  • "We tried to play big and play more of a power game, without a lot of ball movement and spacing," Wright said. "We tried to change what we do, to try to adapt to our players. I think all of us understand, let's just get back to who we are, let's teach our players how we play, rather than adjust to what our players' weaknesses are."
  • Jay Wright believes that he needs to re-build the "leadership structure" of the program to build more accountability among his players.
  • According to Jensen, Jay Wright isn't on the hot seat and won't be this season.

Further stumbling could send Jay Wright down the path to the hot seat, however, just as it did for his predecessors. Rollie Massimino left under his own terms for UNLV, but recruiting was starting to dry up at Villanova by then, after his teams failed to get back to the mountaintop that they conquered in the mid-80s. His chair was getting warm by the time he decided to leave town. Steve Lappas never even sniffed the mountaintop and the blue-chip recruits eventually stopped sniffing around his program.

Jay Wright's plan appears to be something of a "back-to-basics" approach of putting multiple ball-handlers on the court again and returning to something resembling the Villanova teams of the past. Not quite the four-guard systems that he ran in the past, but he hopes to not rely on a single guard to handle the rock again in the future.

That, is apparently how Dylan Ennis will coexist with Ty Johnson, Ryan Arcidiacono and, perhaps, Tony Chennault. It is also how the Wildcats can still be hot in pursuit of the Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew, who are the top guards at their respective positions (and really, both could be easily classified as a "combo" guard). Randy Foye, Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry were all recruited as point guards and were able to co-exist on the floor in 2006's four-guard set. While the extreme guard-heavy line-up may stay retired, Jay Wright won't shy away from using multiple ball-handlers in the future.