Friday, January 26, 2007

View From the Opposing Bench

It's been a while, but we finally have a scouting report from another team's blogger. Craig Dimitri, from Villanova Viewpoint has given me a great rundown of the 'Nova squad. His comments are as follows:

Villanova had a fine nonconference record, but lost three of the first four in the BE. However, they've recovered and now won three in a row ( ND, plus Texas, and @ PC, where they never win).

I did a recap of the first VU/ND clash on my site (one is a stand-alone game story in my archive and the other is included on the VU/ND preview), so if you want my extended thoughts on that, please take a look at them. A couple of other points, tailored for a ND writer:

VU has traditionally played ND at the Wachovia Center, rather than the Pavilion, in order to sell more tix to the ND fan base (the Pavilion only seats 6,500 and it doesn't have sales to the public, in general, except for cupcake opponents in December). This is a big advantage for ND (granted, one wouldn't know it by the fact that VU has dominated the series since ND joined the BE), because the Wachovia Center is much more visitor-friendly, especially if it isn't full. But this year, ND played at the Pavilion for only the second time (the first time was in 1995-96), and it's a lot tougher for a road team to play in front of a raucous student section than it is at the 76ers' venue. I think that was a key factor as to why the score was so lopsided - none of your players had played VU at the Pavilion, before.

Sumpter had an awesome performance in the first one - in just 29 minutes, 21 pts, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks. However, he's injured, due to something that happened vs Notre Dame. He didn't play at all vs Texas on Saturday (Wright dressed him, but there was no chance he'd play; I think Wright just dressed him as a decoy, to make Rick Barnes think that he might be available if needed.). He did play at Providence on Tuesday, and he did well - 7 pts, 4 rebs, 1 blk - but he only logged 16 minutes, so he's clearly not 100%. I wouldn't anticipate that he'd play more than that vs ND. He has a bone bruise on his left tibia and it's going to take some time to heal. So Sumpter won't be as much of a factor this time, which is good for you, obviously.

The rest of the team-

Scottie Reynolds, the freshman point guard, has been incredible recently, scoring a ton of points (he got 27 pts/4 assts vs ND, and he got 20 @ Providence while playing 40 minutes). He's the chief offensive weapon with Sumpter being hurt.

Senior Mike Nardi - combo guard, good shooter from three-point range, and since he can play both guard positions he has a lot of value.

Senior Will Sheridan - doesn't put up a lot of numbers, but he does the quiet stuff (rebounding and defense). Also, he's the only legitimate post player VU has this year (he can play either the 4 or 5; he's better suited to the 4 but since VU has no 5 he has to play there.) If he gets into foul trouble, VU's in trouble.

There are two sophomores that Wright has been easing into expanded roles - Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark, both forwards. Last season, with Ray, Foye, Lowry, and Fraser, they were used primarily as defensive specialists. (Wright likes to do offense/defense substitutions with them.) But they're both scoring points this year. Since we lost four players, Cunningham starts this year, and Clark will probably start vs ND with Sumpter not 100%. They're both good players, and will improve a lot as their careers progress.

Off the Bench

These players won't play much, but a quick rundown-

Sophomore forward Dwayne Anderson - this is mysterious, because he was the 7th man in the rotation for most of the season. He must have ended up in Wright's doghouse, because in four of the last five games he's played 5 min or less. To illustrate vs ND on Jan 17, he played one minute, after averaging double figures in minutes all through November and December. So I don't think you'll see him much.

Sophomore guard Bilal Benn - comes in solely to give Reynolds and Nardi a breather. Not a threat offensively.

Freshman forward Reggie Redding - lot of potential, but with so many forwards, he only plays a few minutes a contest. (Coincidentally, he attended the same Philadelphia high school I did, so I always root for him to get on the floor, as you can imagine...)

Villanova's Weaknesses

The chief weakness is the lack of a legitimate 5, and moreover, the fact that Sheridan is the only player with the size and talent to play that position at all. It would be logical for opponents to play a patient offense, use up the shot clock, in order to run their plays directly at Sheridan, and try to get him in foul trouble. Jay Wright managed to solve this problem last year by famously starting four guards + Sheridan all year, and had a lot of success. But if Sheridan is off the floor, everyone else has to drop down a position, and Villanova is very vulnerable inside.

Nardi is too small to be an effective defender, which is why he's taken out for defensive possessions at crunch time if it's close. Reynolds, as most freshmen are, takes way too many bad shots (in fairness, he's scoring 20+ pts, so he's making a lot of them), but he can be tempted into taking NBA distance threes if he's defended well.

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