NEW YORK - I’ll admit it. At this point I have no choice.
I was wrong about Villanova.
I thought the Wildcats were going to be a sleeper in the Big East. I thought that point guard Maalik Wayns and big man Mouphtaou Yarou were going to figure it out this season, and I thought that Jay Wright’s youngsters were versatile and talented enough to turn Villanova into a tough defensive team that could mimic the 2009 team that made the Final Four.
Its early in the season and a turnaround is certainly still possible. Stranger things have happened. But as of today, December 7th, 2011, Villanova is not a very good basketball team.
And they may not even be an NCAA Tournament team.
“I would like us to be on the other end of this, but we are just not there yet,” Wright said after the Wildcats lost 81-71 to No. 10 Missouri on Tuesday night at the Jimmy V Classic. “I like this team. I think we have a chance to be a good team. We have a lot of work to do. A lot. We have a tough schedule coming up too. It might not show in our wins and losses right away, but I think by the end this can be a good team.”
There is some potential on this roster, but there are also some potentially fatal flaws.
For as talented as Wayns is, he doesn’t appear to be a leader. He can make things happen offensively -- 14 points and nina assists last night -- but he’s far from a modicum for efficiency -- 4-11 shooting and five turnovers. The bigger issue is that he seems to have more Corey Fisher in him than Scottie Reynolds. He can put up numbers, but does he truly make everyone else on the floor a better player?
Yarou is a capable big man at the Big East level, but he’s not a go-to low post scorer. Villanova can’t dump the ball to him on the block every possession to relieve pressure. Their perimeter guys -- Dominic Cheek, Darrun Hilliard, James Bell -- are not good enough shooters to be as complacent as they are offensively. That trio is athletic and can get to the rim, but they don’t take advantage of that ability.
But for all the issues that Villanova has offensively their biggest problem is on the defensive end of the floor. They cannot stop penetration. Missouri’s guards got wherever they wanted to last night. Help side was slow and rotations were non-existent, which is why Ricardo Ratliffe was able to go 8-8 from the floor, seemingly all on dunks and layups setup by Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon. According to Kenpom, the Wildcats are currently 128th in the country in defensive efficiency.
Just as worrisome was Villanova’s performance on the glass. They gave up 14 offensive rebounds to a team that starts a shooting guard at the four spot (Kim English) and has a center (Ratliffe) who is not known for his ability to pound the glass and rebound out of his area.
The good news is that this team is young. They have a number of freshmen and sophomores getting big minutes, and their veterans are still in the process of learning new roles within the program.
In other words, there is room for this group to grow into their potential. But right now, this is a 5-3 team with losses to St. Louis and Santa Clara, and they looked like it Tuesday. That ten point margin doesn’t really give an accurate sense of how much control Missouri had over this game.
“We are getting better,” Wright said. “It is a little embarrassing to say that when we lose by ten, but that is where we are right now.”