Villanova basketball fans are smart. Anyone who spends any amount of time reading the articles on VUHoops.com can pick up on that pretty quickly. Whether it be one of the many comments, a fan post, or even the daily roundup, you can always find up to the minute facts, stats, and next level analysis.
That's not what these articles will be about. This season I'm going to come at you from the other side of the spectrum, your gut. It's not a fact, it's a feeling. It's not a stat, it's a state of mind. It's not next level, it's skin deep. Other progressively less funny/more complicated analogies.
The Eye Test will look at Villanova, the Big East, and all of NCAA on a weekly basis with disregard to stats, metrics, and more often than not, reasoning. And there is no better way to start the "gut feeling" analysis of the preseason than to take a look at Villanova’s Senior Class.
Last year Arch was named Co-Big East POY. This was a big shock to a lot of people, including some Villanova fans. Those who value statistics above all else saw that Kris Dunn put up arguably the most productive in the league. But those of us who put more stock in what they see than a box score had different criteria for POY, and that's where Arch excelled:
1) He led the league's best team to arguably their best regular season in school history
2) He led by example: diving for balls on defense, controlling the ball on offense, and knowing when to get OTHER guys going.
3) He suffered through every TV announcer commenting on, screwing up, and eventually giving up on pronouncing his last name.
4) He took shot to the face, played through it, and then handled it gracefully with words instead of blows.
5) He knows when to take the big shot, and when not to take the big shot
But enough about last year, what does my gut tell me we need from him this season? Honestly, the same thing. Yeah he could have picked a better shot here and there, but once he was past his wrist injury last season, the kid did everything we could have wanted him to. He is going to once again find himself surrounded by athletic offensive weapons that he'll be in charge of, and that's a role he has thrived in.
I'm very much a believer that as Arch goes, so goes the team. That doesn't mean that if he's not putting up points we can't win. It means that his mindset is infectious. If he's intense on the floor, the rest of the team will be too. That's what we expect from a captain. That's what earns BE POY. That's what we hope for in a Champion.
I remember the first time I saw Chef on the court his freshman year. Litterally my first reaction was "Holy Crap, Jay found a Giant!" It had been a long time since a center at Villanova had the size and strength that Chef brought to the table. But even with his physical talents, he still has shown the dedication and year over year improvement that we’ve come to expect in a Nova big man.
If it hadn’t been for the breakout season of Pointer at St. John’s, I’m a firm believer that Ochefu would have won back to back Big East Most Improved Player awards. Not only did he continue to control the rim and cut down on fouls, but Chef made huge strides on Offense last year. Personally I think the biggest improvement was his positioning on the court in offensive sets, creating more offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates. That or the dunking. A lot of dunking.
This season Chef will be asked to continue that improvement and become not just one of the dominant players in the Big East, but one of the best centers in the country. He has all the tools to do it, and with Pinkston gone he’ll start seeing more time on the court as well. The Villanova guard system only works with a solid big man in the middle, and Chef can more than fill that role. Add in another point guard in Brunson with possibly the greatest floor vision Nova’s seen in the past decade, and I expect we’ll see a lot more dunking this season.