Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Elephant in the Room


Rarely (unless John Calipari is the coach) do teams lose their two highest scorers and get significantly better, but that is exactly the case with Villanova this season. It's been thought, but not vocalized much, but now I think is a pretty good time to wonder about the growth of this Villanova team in the absence of Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek. I want to be clear that I do not intend to demonize or cast blame on those two, or Ty Johnson and Markus Kennedy, the other two players absent from last year's team, but when a team improves this much without the two players perceived to be the best on the team, it is understandably a topic of discussion.

I would like to preface this by saying that I am not disappointed with either Wayns or Cheek in hindsight. I have been critical in the past of the culture of venerating high school seniors as part of the recruiting process, and the vitriol towards Wayns and Cheek by some is emblematic of the slippery slope that comes with anointing a particular recruiting class as one that is going to lead a school to the promised land. Both Cheek and Wayns did do what they were billed to be able do out of high school: Score. The only problem is that in their three years at Villanova, the team was generally putrid defensively, which cannot be pinned on them alone, and it's not necessarily their fault that they weren't particularly good defensive players, but it's worth pointing out that Villanova is exponentially better at defense this season than they were in the last one.

If you had asked me last season what was causing the issues on defense, I would have told you that it was a problem that went from the inside out, that Mouphtaou Yarou's limitations on the inside were the primary cause, but now I realize that Mouphie can be on a team that plays defense that is elite, or near that level. What is surprising to me is how much last season's team relied on Cheek and Wayns offensively. The 2013 version of Villanova is worse offensively, probably because they turn the ball over more and are missing free throws at a greater percentage, and Wayns and Cheek both converted at a rate greater than 80%.

It is not okay to question the effort of the two players who left early, but it is to wonder if their absence has forced this team to acknowledge their offensive deficiencies and embrace hard nosed team defense.

Go 'Cats, beat Cincinnati tonight.

No comments:

Post a Comment