The Villanova Wildcats will finally return to action on Tuesday night (7:00 p.m., FS1) when they take on the Morgan State Golden Bears at the brand spanking new Finneron Pavilion. Did you hear that? The season is finally here.
:::swings blazer (its a work day) a la Brandi Chastain:::
So, settle down. Settle in. Put away that Collin Gillespie hot take. Stash your suggestion that [insert player] redshirt down in the bottom drawer. Delete the tweet you drafted about your bold predictions for Tim Delaney. We have some actual real life basketball to discuss for the first time in six months. Thank, ****.
Villanova’s first opponents for this season are the Golden Bears of Morgan State, a tiny little Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team from Baltimore, Maryland. Interestingly, the Golden Bears actually won the NCAA Tournament...for Division II...in 1974 #tradition. It’s a relief to see that we did our due diligence in seeking out a team with championship pedigree to open our new $65 million arena. Morgan State last appeared in the actual NCAA Tournament in 2010 getting bounced by West Virginia (what’s that like?) in the First Round.
Last year, the Bears were picked to finish 1st in the MEAC but ended up closing conference play with a 7-9 record before bowing out of the conference tournament semi-finals. They were led by senior Tiwian Kendley, who was 2nd in the country in both %Poss and %Shots. He also drew 9.8 fouls per 40 minutes. If you can’t tell by those numbers, Morgan State’s MO was to force feed Kendley down low with nearly 55.9% of their points coming within the arc. In fact, the team ranked 347th in 3PA/FGA and 315th in 3P%. They definitely knew whether their limited and one-dimensional bread was buttered.
This year, Kendley is gone and Morgan State will be holding open auditions for his replacement(s) in the offense. Conventional wisdom suggests that the bulk of the offensive production will fall to Martez Cameron and Stanley Davis, two quick junior guards who love to get out in transition.
Stanley Davis hails from Chester, Pennsylvania (STEM Academy) and Lapri McCray-Pace, a talented sophomore, is a product of Conwell-Egan Catholic HS in Philadelphia. Both players are expected to make an impact for the Bears this year and are probably wondering why the minimum price for entry to this game is $250.00.
As noted above, Morgan State’s weakness is really any shooting from distance. They sniff out transition points to avoid having to break up a defense with jump-shots. Further, without Kendley this year, they lack a true inside threat to keep a defense honest. As for what Morgan State does well, they generate a decent amount of turnovers, which feed their transition game, and are very strong on the offensive glass, which gives them plenty second chances.
So, what does this mean for Villanova? In the big picture, nothing. Villanova should win this game handily. On a play to play scale, it will provide us some insight into the team’s ability to guard quick guards getting out in transition and running downhill. Villanova may have the more talented guards but going up against crafty veterans like Cameron and Davis will be a nice test for freshman point guard Jahvon Quinerly.
Additionally, this will not be a game where Villanova needs to be concerned about guarding the perimeter. Morgan State’s offense will exist entirely within the arc, whether it be coming in transition or in the half court. As such, Villanova’s frontcourt, consisting of Eric Paschall, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and any mix-and-match of Saddiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels, and Cole Swider, will at least get some action defending in and around the rim.
Overall, this game will provide us with a first look at some of the new faces and how they fit into the puzzle on both defense and offense. While Morgan State is of a far less caliber than the teams we will be seeing shortly down the road, the veteran guard play is enough to require Villanova to employ some defensive discipline. On offense, space and open shots will not be hard to come by so, to the extent the offense stalls, becomes stymied, or fails to click in some areas, we will at least be able to isolate some potential areas of improvement. All in all, this is a decent environment in which to get our first real peek at the 2018-2019 Villanova Wildcats. Let’s go!