What to make of the Villanova Wildcats?
Upon opening their 2012-13 campaign with three consecutive triumphs, Jay Wright’s club promptly dropped four of their next five contests before winning seven straight—including their first two conference outings.
Since a road defeat to then seventh-ranked Syracuse on Jan. 12, the Wildcats (17-10, 8-6) have yet to win more than two straight; however, courtesy of back-to-back victories against top-10 clubs (Syracuse and Louisville, respectively), the 1985 national champions have shown flashes of brilliance over the past month.
Nevertheless, on the heels of last year’s forgettable season (headlined by a 5-13 mark in conference play, ahead of only Providence and DePaul in the conference cellar) and currently boasting a roster featuring eight underclassmen, perhaps stretches of inconsistency was to be expected from the Wildcats.
Yet, despite their present middle-of-the -conference status, Villanova is not devoid of things in which to hang their hat on entering their matchup against the Marquette Golden Eagles (19-6, 10-3) on Saturday afternoon—beginning with freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono.
The 18-year-old Arcidiacono, a native of Langhorne, Pa., leads the club in minutes, assists per game (3.4, which is also tied for 11th in the league), three pointers made and free throw percentage. Additionally, Arcidiacono, ranked among the top 50 prospects in the class of 2012 by ESPNU, is second on the team in points per game (11.7 ppg).
“His court sense, vision and uncanny shooting eye,” said Wright, who is 239-119 in 11-plus seasons with the university, according to villanova.com, “give him the opportunity to become the next great Villanova guard.”
Added Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, who is 4-5 all time against Villanova, as reported by jsonline.com, “As [Arcidiacono] has went, so has their team. That’s a lot of pressure at his age for a point guard. But to do the things he has this year as a freshman, that speaks to his work and (coach) Jay [Wright] putting him in the right spots to have success.”
While the 6’3”, 195-pound Arcidiacono, who is averaging 19.5 points over the Wildcats’ past two contests, has anchored the Villanova backcourt, the frontcourt is not short in length.
In addition to 6’7” sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston, the team’s leading scorer (12.6 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (5.0 rpg), the Wildcats have a formidable trio in 6’10, 255-pound Mouphtaou Yarou; 6’11”, 245-pound Daniel Ochefu; and 6’11”, 220-pound Maurice Sutton.
Although Yarou (at 9.1 points per game) is the only scoring threat among the aforementioned big man triumvirate, collectively, the trio help make Villanova the fourth most efficient rebounding club in the Big East (37.4 rpg).
In turn, the Wildcats are one of the most prolific teams in the conference from beyond the arc. Paced by junior guard James Bell's 40.5 percent showing, the Wildcats are shooting 34.8 percent from three-point range (sixth in the Big East) and have connected on 176 triples, third best among conference affiliates.
Come Saturday, the Wildcats, who upended Rutgers, 71-63, on Monday, will welcome in the first-place Golden Eagles in their second-to-last home contest of the season. Which, for Jay Wright, should be a somewhat comforting thought as his team is 10-4 in home affairs this season, including victories in four of their past five.
Marquette, tied with Georgetown and Syracuse atop the Big East standings, meanwhile, has won four of their past five contests by an average of 16.3 points and enter the weekend playing some of their most efficient basketball of the season—personified via their 21-point pasting of Seton Hall on Tuesday evening.
Tip off for the 21st meeting between Marquette and Villanova is slated for 5:00 p.m. CT.