‘Nova Looks To Rebound

 

by Mackenzie Kraemer for Palestra.net After having lost four of their last six games, one might think that Villanova’s confidence was shaken. Coach Jay Wright may have sensed the same thing, so before Monday’s practice, he sat down with senior guard Scottie Reynolds to look at stats comparing this year’s highly regarded team to last year’s Final Four squad. The similarities were striking. “We’re almost the same in everything,” Wright said. “Not just in record, but in points scored, points against and field goal percentage defense. In fact, we’re better in a lot of ways this year and I want them to understand that.” The biggest reason Wright believes the team has struggled lately was due to the schedule. However, even he admits his players could use a little more time practicing. “We need to practice,” Wright said. “It’s good for this group. I keep saying, the more this group can play together, I wish we had another month of the season just to get these freshmen more acclimated and some better chemistry, have some more experiences together. We’re going to have three practices, which is pretty good and we’re going to really take advantage of it.” Indeed, six new players as well as an inconsistent lineup all season as Wright juggles up to eleven players have made chemistry a much bigger issue this year than it ever was in last year’s Final Four run. Off-court issues have also been distracting at times. Before the season started, senior Reggie Redding was caught with a small amount of marijuana and suspended for a semester. Then freshman Mouphtaou Yarou came down with Hepatitis B and missed plenty of valuable development time. Just a few weeks ago, Corey Stokes was cited for public urination outside of a popular college bar. And just when the team seemed to be moving on from non-basketball issues, now sophomore forward Taylor King’s status is in doubt with what Wright calls a “personal issue.” He stressed King did not break any team or school rules, but wouldn’t reveal any other details. “It’s just a little teaching point we’re trying to make, and we’ll keep it within the family,” he stated. “He’ll definitely be with us. It’s just a matter of whether we’re going to play him. I think we’ll probably in the next day or so make a decision on what we’re going to do.” King’s possible absence would open up more minutes for freshmen like Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood. Wright has two extra days to make his final decision on King as his team will enjoy a double bye before taking on either Marquette, UConn, or St. John’s on Thursday afternoon at an estimated start time of 2:30 PM. If they win that game, a rematch with Syracuse in the semifinals is a strong possibility. But first, Villanova will have to return to its winning ways Thursday. Marquette and St. John’s will be looking for revenge for earlier season losses, two of them in Marquette’s case, while UConn already beat Villanova in the Wachovia Center. Needless to say, after a long Big East grind, Villanova will certainly be battle tested for next week’s NCAA tournament. Whether or not King will play or if the team will get back on track enough to go on a deep run remain unanswered questions.