|Villanova expects to do better in Big East play|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 13 November 2008 16:11|
Wright can barely make it through his review of the Wildcats' play in the Big East last season, so there's no reason for his promising Wildcats to relive some of their worst basketball before this season tips off.
``I don't let them watch any because I don't want them to see it,'' Wright said. ``It really wasn't pretty. We just weren't a good team.''
Funny what winning two games in the NCAA tournament can hide when looking at the overall season. The Wildcats (22-13) barely made their fourth straight tournament after a 9-9 record in conference play left them nervously watching the selection show hoping to see their name called for an at-large bid.
n an NCAA run to salvage their season.
``We can't skip everything and go right to March,'' leading scorer Scottie Reynolds said. ``We can't think we're owed a berth in the NCAA tournament.''
The Wildcats have the talent to believe they can contend for a Big East title. Then again, so do the six conference teams ranked ahead of Villanova in The Associated Press' preseason Top 25. The Wildcats are a tight, veteran team with only one freshman on the roster, and the nucleus has been together for about three years.
The familiarity has been an early positive in the preseason.
``You don't have to waste time on little things,'' Reynolds said. ``We've been able to get through a lot of things quicker and go on to the next thing. That can help us a long way going into the season, but it can only take us so far.''
Reynolds, Corey Fisher (9.1 points) and Corey Stokes (6.4) give the Wildcats one of the more talented guard trios in the conference. Dante Cunningham (the only other double-digit scorer at 10.4), Casiem Drummond and Shane Clark should get plenty of scoring opportunities and be counted on for the dirty work in the paint.
Clark, who averaged 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 32 games last season, should be ready to play in about a month after needing knee surgery.
ogether for a few games, I think this can turn into a pretty good year,'' Reynolds said.
There's no reason for Clark to fret too much over the missed games. He's not missing much.
Villanova plays 12 of its first 13 games on campus at the Pavilion or in Philadelphia. No nonconference team sniffs the Top 25 except for No. 7 Texas at the Jimmy V Classic on Dec. 9 at Madison Square Garden.
Wright says the loaded Big East season prepares the Wildcats for the NCAAs. It's hard to say how an early season schedule that includes Friday's opener against Albany and home games against Niagara, Monmouth and Houston Baptist readies the Wildcats for the Big East.
Reynolds said that when he came to Villanova, he imagined trips to Hawaii or other big-time tournaments on the schedule. He realized once the Big East season started that going soft early might be the way to go.
``I got into the Big East and was like, not everybody has a league like the Big East,'' Reynolds said.
Wright defended the cushy schedule by saying a Big 5 game - against Philly schools Temple, Saint Joseph's, La Salle and Penn - is ``just like a Big East game.''
No one, though, has ever confused La Salle with Connecticut.
``We can't win a couple early and think we're good,'' Wright said.
ildcats rolled into Big East play with a 10-1 record. They lost the conference opener, lost five straight over January-February and six of seven overall to plummet out of the national rankings and toward the bottom of the standings. The Wildcats won five of the final seven Big East games to get themselves in position for the NCAAs.
This year, they don't want to have to rally late to make it to their fifth straight NCAA tournament.
``We look at the Big East more than the Sweet 16,'' Clark said. ``The Big East is where you make your name at. I think we can be more than a 9-9 team.''
The Wildcats knocked off No. 5 seed Clemson and No. 13 Siena in March before losing to national champion Kansas. It was the third time in four seasons Villanova's run was ended by the eventual champion.
``We all watched and said they're a hell of a team,'' Wright said of Clemson. ``Then we get on the court with them and we said they're no better than maybe eight, nine teams we played in our conference.''
Wright wants the Wildcats to realize now just how good they can be in the Big East.
``We can't let what happened last year happen again,'' Reynolds said. ``We can't count on 9-9 getting us in this year. We have to be better.''