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Villanova Week in Review — August 17

Two weeks to go before Villanova kicks off against Boston College, and a date has been set for the continuation of a long basketball rivalry against the Orange. Things remain quiet on the basketball recruiting front, but the experts continue to say encouraging things about this year's squad. However, the big news this week on the basketball front is that an incredibly in-shape JayVaughn tore something in his ankle, although there has been no official word on his condition. In track, former 'Nova superstar Sheila Reid failed to advance in the 1500 heats in the IIAF World Championships, while another former great, Frances Koons, finished 9th in the Falmough Road Race. We scour the internet for Villanova news so you don't have to. It's all here!

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Bum Wheel ...VUHoops' Mike J reports, "Villanova fans have been worried about depth in the upcoming season. On Tuesday night, they're getting a scare in the off-season.  Rising junior JayVaughn Pinkston posted to a photo to his Instagram account of himself on crutches. He later on noted, "I think I torn my muscle in my ankle I have to get a MRI tomorrow."  [Editor's Note:  there has been no official word on JayVaughn's injury.]

Wide Open ... Jeff Goodman of ESPN Insider ($) writes, "There's no clear favorite [in the Big East this season]. Creighton brings back a superstar, Georgetown lost its stud, Marquette will be a factor despite significant turnover, and Villanova returns the core from a team that went dancing a year ago. St. John's and Xavier should be improved after sub-par seasons, while Coach Ed Cooley could have Providence in the hunt.  Goodman picks Villanova #3 behind Marquette and Creighton.  About Villanova, he writes, "Jay Wright has the program back on track, and even though there is no clear-cut star, the chemistry is improved from a couple of seasons ago and the pieces fit. If JayVaughn Pinkston can become more consistent, Nova could contend for the league title.  Ryan Arcidiacono has worked on his conditioning in the offseason. James Bell and Darrun Hilliard both know their roles.  Daniel Ochefu won't give the Wildcats the same rebounding presence, he'll provide more offensive skill. Don't be surprised to see freshmen Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins make an immediate impact, along with Dylan Ennis, who can come off the bench and add scoring from the wing spot."   Hat tip to Mike J

Old Rivalries Die Hard ... Mike Waters of reports, "The Syracuse Orange and Villanova Wildcats were Big East Conference foes for more than 30 years, but with Syracuse off to the Atlantic Coast Conference and Villanova in the revamped Big East, the series between two old conference foes was in doubt.  In May, Syracuse officials announced a home-and-home series with Villanova with a game at the Carrier Dome in 2013-14 and a game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia the following season.  While the date of this season's Syracuse-Villanova game has not been officially announced, the game is listed on Saturday, Dec. 28 on the Syracuse University athletics website."

What Was Jay Thinking? ... Here's our favorite tweets from Coach Wright this week:

Time Running Short in Gebin Chase ... VUHoops' Chris Lane writes, "2014 PF Martin Geben is weighing his options and may be ready to cut down his list towards the end of August when he returns from his native Lithuania. However, he is already in the process of scheduling official visits to Notre Dame (8/30) and Virginia (9/6).  According to his coach, Geben may look to sign during the early period (November 13-20).  No word yet on if Geben is looking to schedule an official visit to Villanova, but if Jay Wright can't get him on campus this fall, this looks to be another blow to Villanova's frontline efforts for 2014."

Alkins Impresses ... Joseph Staszewski of the Times Ledger writes "[Villanova target] Rawle Alkins is embracing his new role as one of the most recognizable names and talents in New York City high school basketball.  Alkins was invited to play in the Big Strick Classic last weekend at Gaucho Gym in the Bronx. The high school hoops all-star game honors the memory of street ball legend John Strickland and features the best high school boys' basketball player in the tri-state area against the top talent from around the country. Alkins scored six points in Team New York City's 126-110 win over Team USA.  The 6-foot-4, ultra-athletic wing already has scholarship offers from Fordham, Villanova, Cincinnati and Seton Hall and interest from Notre Dame and Miami. He scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the Royals' Federation title game win over Long Island Lutheran and treated that crowd to a ridiculous reverse dunk in transition that wowed the crowd at the Times Union Center."

‘Nova in the Dirty Dozen ... VUHoops' Chris Lane reports, "At the beginning of August Villanova offered SG Malachi Richardson, one of the top prospects in the class of 2015. Jay Wright had been on Richardson for quite some time, but following a strong July live period in which he played a year up with Team Final (alongside Mikal Bridges), Wright pulled the trigger with an offer.  Richardson has cut his list down to twelve schools, listed in no order:  Syracuse, UConn, Indiana, North Carolina, Rutgers, Ohio St, Georgetown, Florida, Miami, Villanova, Kansas and Arizona."

Gridiron Cats Picked #5 Nationally ... VUHoops' Brian Ewart reports, "The Sports Network (TSN) released their preseason top-25 poll of FCS football programs on Tuesday and Villanova was picked in the top-5.  The 'Cats check in as the top-ranked team in out of the CAA in the poll.  Villanova was also ranked in the FCS Coaches Poll, coming in at number-9."

New Addition to Bench Mob? ....Edward Kensik of North writes, "It did not take long for 6-foot-5-inch, 220 pound tight Connor Cuccinelli to get the pads on for college football. It was only about three weeks after he made his speech as the valedictorian at St. Mary High School graduation when he was dressing up for pre-workouts the Villanova. It's amazing for Cuccinelli is playing football in college, even after being named All Bergen County second team tight end in 2012. The start of his junior season ended abruptly after Cuccinelli broke his femur.  Cuccinelli came back from the injury and helped the Gaels football team make the Non-Public Group 1 state final last season. But it was not only on the football field, but also on the basketball court where he helped the Gaels to the Bergen County Tournament semifinals.  For Cuccinelli it will be tough not getting ready for basketball this season. "I actually play now and then," said Cuccinelli. But for the rest of his college career, he will be looking to help Villanova to a national football championship or two."   Hat tips to Brian Ewart and Chris Lane

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait ... Nathan Smith of TribLive Sports writes, "While some athletes may find a redshirt season difficult, Matt McCann embraced his when he first arrived at Villanova in 2011.  McCann moved into the strong safety position after playing his high school career at linebacker.  McCann showed no signs of a learning curve as he finished the season with 36.5 tackles, three pass deflections and an interception as a redshirt freshman in 2012. "There is a lot of excitement going into this season," McCann said. "We have the ability to go far. The only person who can beat us is us."  Villanova gets its season underway on Aug. 31 when it travels to Boston College for a noon start."

Lacrosse Reloads ... VUHoops' Brian Holman reports, "Inside Lacrosse posted their top 2013 incoming classes for men's lacrosse. The Wildcats come in at #17 on the list; their class features three top 100 players, including attackmen Devin McNamara, long-stick midfielder Danny Sweeney, and midfielder Austin Frederick."

Smart Jocks ... reports, "Six Villanova teams received public recognition from the NCAA for their academic success, while the Wildcats had 21 teams scoring above their sport's national average in the most recent NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate (APR) data, which covers the 2008-09 through 2011-12 academic years.  Among the six teams honored, four had a perfect multiyear score of 1000, including men's lacrosse, rowing, and men's and women's tennis. The women's indoor track & field team (997) and the men's soccer team (996) also received public recognition."

Better than Seventh ... reports that Nova's men's soccer was "picked to finish sixth in the 2013 BIG EAST men's soccer regular-season championship by a vote of the league's head coaches.  Georgetown was picked to win the regular season championship.  The Wildcats also landed a pair of student-athletes, senior Dylan Renna and junior Oscar Umar, on the pre-season All-BIG EAST unit."

Hail Szczur ... The Press of Atlantic City reports, "[Former Villanova two-sport great] Matt Szczur went 1-for-4 with a single and a walk in the Tennessee Smokies (Cubs) 6-2 win over the Chattanooga Lookouts (Dodgers) in the double-A Southern League on Wednesday.  Szczur was hitting .283 with 65 runs scored, 41 RBIs and 21 stolen bases on 33 attempts in 111 games through Tuesday."

Never Forget Where You Came From ... Josh Verlin of City of Basketball Love writes, "Following in the footsteps of many Philadelphia ballplayers who have come from some of the city's worst neighborhoods to reach the NBA before him, Maalik Wayns is giving back.  Wayns, who played for Villanova and is currently with the Los Angeles Clippers, is hosting his first-ever basketball camp this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 16 and 17, at Simons Rec Center in the West Oak Lane section of the city.  The second day will be an invitational elite camp, with 30-40 top area high school ballplayers. Future Division I players Rashann London, Ben Bentil, Traci Carter , Samir Doughty are on the list.  Big names like Dion Waiters, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Kyle Lowry will help out."

Dante Doing His Share ... Northlands New Center reports, "Minnesota Timberwolves forwards Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham were in Duluth as part of the team's summer caravan tour, with more than 200 people attending the event.  The pair put on a free basketball clinic for young kids at Duluth Marshall High School before signing autographs for fans, an experience both said was fun for them as well.  I love the fact that when you walk in, they scream and their eyes light up," Cunningham said of the kids. "It's a feeling that is kind of hard to put into words, but it's just awesome."  Pat Ruff of the Post Bulletin writes, "On a Timberwolves team now filled with finesse players and scorers, the 6-8, 230-pound Dante Cunningham brings a skill set that is otherwise mostly missing for the Wolves. His calling cards are his defense and grit.  "We have a lot of great players," Cunningham said. "But what I try to do is play with energy and just bring whatever coach needs. Whatever he needs, I'll do."

On Track ... Villanova Running reports, "Sapped by a recent illness and running a full 8 seconds off her 1500 meter PR set earlier this year, Sheila Reid failed to advance out of the 1500 meter heats today in Moscow at the 14th IAAF World Championships.  As Reid explained in her post-race interview (above), her fitness came off track over the past 10-14 days as she fought illness, lost some weight, and made the long trip to Moscow. Where a spot in the final seemed a safe bet in her mind two weeks ago, things just didn't come together in the lead-up to the World Championships."  Here's a video of Sheila after the race, looking gorgeous as ever:

Villanova Running also reports that "Frances Koons, a 10-time All American and 2009 NCAA indoor runner-up over 5000 meters while at Villanova, came 9th (3rd American) this past weekend at the Falmouth Road Race in Massachusetts.  One of the premier road races in the United States, this year's events drew a top-quality international field.  In finishing 9th in 38:06 over the 7-mile course, Koons bested several name-brand competitors."

Power of a Villanova Degree ... Tom Canavan of The Big Story writes, "Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris and business partner David Blitzer bought the Devils on Thursday and the lease to the Prudential Center from Jeff Vanderbeek for $320 million.  Harris and Blitzer selected [Villanova alumnus] Scott O'Neil as the Devils chief executive officer, a job he also has with the 76ers.  The former MSG CEO will work with both teams.   Hat tip to Brian Ewart

Wanted, Outside Shooters .... Nadia Lindstrom of inRecruit writes "Class of 2015 high school basketball player, Josh Ruggles, might be the best shooter you've never heard about.  The 6-foot-1 guard from Wheaton Academy in Western Chicago set a world record for three-pointers in 5 minutes with astounding accuracy (incredible 92 percent (135-147) from the top of the arc).  College recruiters might want to start taking notes because virtually unknown until a few weeks ago, Josh Ruggles is certainly making a name for himself."  [Editor's Note:  This video is for you, Honey Badger.]

I Smell a Hawk ... Main Line Suburban Life reports, "Radnor police reported that two golf carts were stolen from Villanova University by three unidentified males.  According to police, three males were seen taking two carts from the rear of the Pavilion on the Villanova campus Aug. 7. Both carts were recovered near campus.  The three males were last seen by Villanova security in the area of Rosemont College. Rosemont security reported that three men fitting the description were last seen getting on a train headed to Philadelphia."   Hat tip to Brian Ewart

Tough Big East Start for Butler ... Ben Arelano of inRecruit writes, "Seniors have graduated, Brad Stevens has moved on to coach the Boston Celtics, the program is in its inaugural season in the Big East Conference, and their star player will have to miss the entire 2013-2014 season. New head coach, Brandon Miller, has a lot on his plate for this upcoming year.  Junior forward, Roosevelt Jones tore ligaments in his left wrist Friday morning during Butler's first game on their trip to Australia. He would have been the team's top returning rebounder and scorer.  Butler has now lost three of the team's leading scorers from last season. Rotnei Clarke (16.9 PPG), Andrew Smith (11.3 PPG), and Roosevelt Jones (10.1 PPG)."

Full Plate for Val ... Nicole Auerbach of USA Today Sports writes, "Big East athletic directors expect new Big East Commissioner ValAckerman to focus on the long-term health of their conference, in addition to simply getting it up and running. They point to the importance of maintaining a good relationship with Madison Square Garden, which hosts their postseason tournament.  Two major issues will affect the Big East's future, likely more than anything else: expansion and the NCAA governance model.  "I'd call it right now an openness to expansion [beyond ten teams] - I think, because you have to be in this world," Ackerman says.  More pressing, perhaps, is the possibility of drastic changes to the NCAA governance structure. Talk of a new "super-division" is looming.  Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro calls the "political" side of being a conference commissioner, a role which includes tracking where the league is positioned amongst the prominent football-playing conferences.  "Being able to have those relationships and the political savvy to make sure that a conference like the Big East continues to compete at the very highest level - I think Val possesses that in a big way," Nicastro says. "She's really going to help us as we move forward in this new evolution."

Big East to Drop in Attendance Rankings ... The Providence Journal reports, "The NCAA has released an interesting survey on attendance in men's college basketball in the 2012-13 season.  The Big Ten, Big East and SEC were the top three conferences in attendance average but that's going to change in 2013-14. First off, the Big East is greatly changed, losing the Orange and the national champion Cardinals but adding Creighton (sixth in the country at 17,155 fans) and Xavier (43rd, 9,781).  Providence College averaged improved to 7,772 fans, or 60th in the country, last season. That would place the Friars seventh in the `new' Big East, behind (in order) Creighton, Marquette, Georgetown, Xavier, Villanova and Butler."  Hat tip to Brian Ewart