The Big Picture: Last season the Wildcats finished 25-8 overall and 13-5 in BIG EAST, which tied for second place in the conference. The win total tied for second best in school history. VU earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Championship, though the Wildcats were eliminated in the second round. Coach Jay Wright, who had six newcomers among his top 11 players, will welcome back eight of those 11 for 2010-11. Like last year, the Wildcats have to replace two starters, though this year’s supporting cast will be more experienced. Villanova will be aiming for its seventh straight trip to the NCAAs.
Who’s Back: The Wildcats will be able to lean on the senior trio of Corey Fisher, Antonio Pena and Corey Stokes. Fisher was All-BIG EAST Third Team last year after averaging 13.3 points and a team-leading 3.9 assists. He is one of the league’s most creative players offensively. The 6-8 Pena averaged 10.5 points and 7.0 rebounds last season. Pena was forced to play more center than his natural power forward position because freshman Mouphtaou Yarou missed significant time due to hepatitis. Stokes, a 6-5 wing player, averaged 9.5 points and continued to develop as an all-around contributor. Sophomore Maalik Wayns will push to start in the backcourt with Fisher. He made a splash as a freshman, making the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team. Wayns averaged 7.0 points while displaying great quickness. Dominic Cheek, another sophomore guard, will be pushing for more playing time as well. Cheek averaged 5.3 points while offering excellent defense. In the middle, Yarou looks ready to become a full-time contributor. Despite his illness, the 6-10 center showed great skills and averaged 4.5 points and 3.7 boards. Still another sophomore, promising forward Isaiah Armwood, played 29 games and averaged 2.3 points and 2.1 rebounds. Maurice Sutton, a 6-11 redshirt sophomore, started seven games at center and led the team in blocked shots.
Who’s Missing: Guard Scottie Reynolds, a consensus all-American, was one of those players who seemingly played forever for the Wildcats. He was also the team leader. Reynolds finished his career as the school’s second leading scorer with 2,222 career points. Last season his scoring average was 18.2 ppg. Forward Reggie Redding averaged 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds, but was known mostly for his defensive abilities.
Storylines: Last year, a heralded recruiting class made important contributions as freshmen. With a season under their belt, they should be even better in 2010-11. Fisher, Pena and Stokes have been through the BIG EAST wars and know how to win. Freshman guard James Bell will try to find some playing time in a crowded backcourt. Freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkston will push to be noticed in the frontcourt. In league games last season, Villanova ranked first in scoring, averaging 81.6 ppg. Wright wants his team to play better defensively. The Wildcats were second in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot only 41.1 percent, but they were 13th in scoring defense, yielding 75.6 ppg.