NEW YORK – In the past, Villanova has waited until January or February to start its swoon.
This year, it looks like the Wildcats are in an all-season swoon.
“They’re not nearly what they were in the past,” said one coach who faced Villanova earlier this season.
Considering Villanova went 5-11 down the stretch last season, and 5-7 the year before, that’s probably more troubling than initially thought. The Wildcats dropped to 5-3 on the season after Tuesday’s loss to Missouri at the Jimmy V Classic. They also have losses to Saint Louis and Santa Clara, and their best win is in overtime against La Salle.
Needless to say, this is not a vintage Villanova team.
While the final score indicates a 10-point margin, it didn’t even feel that close. The Wildcats never really looked like they were a threat to overtake Missouri and win the game. They allowed a 17-4 run late in the first half to give the Tigers a 13-point halftime lead, and the lead was as many as 16 in the second stanza. Villanova did make a couple of runs midway through the second half, but Missouri always had an answer and Villanova simply couldn’t keep up.
The Wildcats allowed a Missouri team that starts one player taller than 6-foot-6 to grab 14 offensive rebounds, and ‘Nova also turned the ball over 15 times. If not for 11 3-pointers and some solid play off the bench from Darrun Hilliard, this would have been a blowout.
“We’re getting better,” head coach Jay Wright said. “It’s a little embarrassing saying that – we just lost by 10 points and we’re getting better. But that’s where we are.”
There are a variety of problems with this Villanova team. It starts at the point guard position. Maalik Wayns is a quick and creative playmaker, but he’s not great at facilitating a half-court offense for others. He did finish with nine assists tonight, but he is clearly more comfortable going to the rim on his own. Inside, there’s no consistent scoring option. Mouphtaou Yarou is a solid asset on the interior, but he’s not a player you can just throw the ball to and expect a result.
For a team to roll with four perimeter players, the guards need to be able to create their own shot and get into the lane for finishes at the rim. Wayns is the only one that can do that right now. Dominic Cheek, James Bell and Hilliard prefer to shoot 3-pointers, and Jayvaughn Pinkston is a more physical type of player. Freshman Tyrone Johnson has the ability to take players off the bounce, but he hasn’t received much playing time.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Wright said. “We have a lot of room for improvement at a lot of positions.”
Villanova really struggled with Missouri’s quickness and athleticism at both ends of the floor. The Wildcats couldn’t keep the Tigers out of the lane, and they were unable to take care of the ball at the offensive end. To be honest, Missouri looked like the old Villanova teams – the ones with Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry, etc.
This group of Wildcats is not bringing back those memories though.
“I’d like us to be on the other end of this,” Wright said. “We’re just not there yet.”
Villanova isn’t ready to compete for a top-five finish in the Big East right now. With all the young talent Wright has, though, it’s not out of the question that the Wildcats will be better by the end of the season. After a trip to Temple on Saturday, Villanova doesn’t have any more marquee non-conference games left. The Wildcats will need to damage in conference play – and that looks difficult right now.
“These are games that give you a measuring stick,” Wright said.
And right now, the Wildcats simply don’t stack up favorably.
Photo: US Presswire