Big East : Lack of veteran leadership keeps Villanova at bottom of conference

first_imgSimply put, this isn’t a typical Villanova men’s basketball team.Three years removed from a Final Four appearance and a 30-8 record, the Wildcats sit at 8-10 overall and 1-5 in the Big East — tied for 14th in the conference with perennial bottom-feeder Providence and ahead of only Pittsburgh, which is on a seven-game losing streak.Villanova head coach Jay Wright said inexperience is the main reason behind his team’s record so far this season. To turn it around this year, Wright said his team needs to be more consistent in its offense, defense and execution while the Wildcats’ veterans step up as the younger players struggle.‘We’ve always had three or four guys that are veterans that really understand how you got to compete day in and day out in the Big East,’ Wright said in a phone interview Tuesday. ‘We don’t have any seniors and our juniors really haven’t been go-to guys in this league.’With only 12 regular-season games remaining, Villanova is on pace to fail to reach 20 wins for the first time since 2003-04 — Wright’s third year on the job when the team finished 18-17 and 6-10 in the Big East.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSince the 2004-05 basketball season, Villanova has a 172-65 combined record and has made seven NCAA Tournaments in a row, including making it to at least the Sweet 16 in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009.Seton Hall (15-3, 4-2) visits Villanova at 7 p.m. Wednesday in The Pavilion. Both teams are coming off loses, as South Florida (10-8, 3-2) beat Seton Hall on Friday and Cincinnati (14-4, 4-1) defeated Villanova on Saturday.For the Wildcats to get a win against the surprising Pirates, Wright said his team has to contain forward Herb Pope and guard Jordan Theodore. Pope is averaging 17.1 points per game and 10.6 rebounds a game, while Theodore is averaging more than 16 points per contest.‘Those two up the middle are as great as a one-two punch as there is in our conference this year,’ Wright said. ‘And the other guy that is pretty much unheralded this year is Fuquan Edwin. He is a great rebounder, great defensive player and he’s shooting almost 50 percent from 3. Those three are really dynamic players, and if we can keep those three in check, I think we got a chance.’Wright also needs his three juniors to step up.Junior guard Maalik Wayns is averaging about 18 points per game and is coming off a 39-point performance against Cincinnati.Wright said Wayns has been carrying the team and more consistency is needed out of junior forward Mouphtaou Yarou and junior guard Dominic Cheek, who are both averaging more than 12 points per game. Wayns, Yarou and Cheek are the only players on the team averaging double figures in points.Yarou and Cheek are becoming better and more consistent players as the season progresses, Wright said.‘As they develop consistency night in and night out, I think that’s what’s going to help us become a better team quickly,’ Wright said.And with a conference as deep and competitive as the Big East, remaining on top year after year and avoiding a transitional season is a difficult task. Especially when you have a young team like Villanova.‘They’re younger, they’ve lost a lot of key guys the last couple years,’ Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said of Villanova in the Big East coaches’ teleconference on Thursday. ‘They’re a young team. They don’t have any seniors. They’re in a little bit of a slump. And in this league, if you get in a little bit of a slump, it can be very difficult for you. The bottom of this league everybody thought wasn’t that good, but the bottom of this league is pretty good.’But Big East teams haven’t been the only ones beating up on Villanova. The Wildcats have had losses to Saint Louis, Santa Clara, Temple, Saint Joseph’s and No. 5 Missouri.With both Pittsburgh and Villanova making up the bottom of the Big East and teams like Seton Hall and Cincinnati at the top, the conference standings look a little different than years past.‘Everyone’s trying to be great every year and if you slip in any way in this conference, it’s treacherous, and I think that’s what you’re seeing this year,’ Wright said.And keeping the players and coaching staff optimistic in a down year is a challenge, Wright said. But he said it also offers the opportunity to learn more about the team and the staff.‘That’s what we’re talking about with our guys, and we’re talking about evaluating ourselves by our effort and our commitment, not necessarily by wins and losses right now,’ Wright said. ‘And evaluating ourselves by our improvement, which I do think we’re making improvement, so that’s what you have to do at a time like this.’Big East Game of the WeekCincinnati (14-4, 4-1) at No. 13 Connecticut (14-3, 4-2)7 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN2Coming off wins versus No. 10 Georgetown (15-3, 5-2) and Villanova, Cincinnati looks to defeat Connecticut to remain in sole possession of second place in the Big East. Cincinnati has won nine of its last 10 games, while the Huskies are 2-2 in the last four games.And Cincinnati now has senior forward Yancy Gates back in the starting lineup. Gates returned to the starting lineup against Georgetown and had 16 points and nine rebounds against Villanova after fulfilling a six-game suspension for his role in the Dec. 10 brawl against Xavier.Teaming with Gates are sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick and senior guard Dion Dixon. Kilpatrick averages 16.2 points per game and Dixon nets 14.1 points per game.Leading the way for Connecticut are sophomore guards Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier. Lamb is averaging 17.9 points per game, while Napier is averaging nearly 14 points per game and 6.2 assists per game.Connecticut leads the all-time series with Cincinnati 7-2.jdharr04@syr.edu Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img Published on January 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Jon: jdharr04@syr.edulast_img read more

Despite blowout loss last week, Syracuse women’s basketball stays in Top 25

first_img Published on December 26, 2016 at 2:08 pm Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21 Despite a 105-84 blowout loss to Texas A&M last week, Syracuse (9-4) remains in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the eighth consecutive week of the season. The Orange on Monday afternoon dropped six spots to No. 25 from No. 19 in the Week 8 poll.SU had won five straight games each by at least 11 points, outscoring opponents by an average of 32.8 points over the streak. Last Tuesday, SU smoked Old Dominion 92-66 in the Florida Sunshine Classic behind 20-point performances from both Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes. Last Wednesday, however, four players combined to score more than SU did as a whole and the Aggies made 34 free throws in their 105-84 triumph.Peterson still leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring. She’s averaging 22.9 points per game after scoring 27 points against ODU and a season-high 34 points in the loss to Texas A&M.Seven ACC teams are ranked: No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 7 Florida State, No. 8 Louisville, No. 11 Miami, No. 15 Duke, No. 19 Virginia Tech and No. 25 Syracuse. Four-time defending national champion Connecticut held the top spot.Syracuse opens conference play on Thursday at No. 8 Louisville.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more