We all know about Scottie Reynolds, he played high school ball a few miles away from our campus and our coaching staff heavily recruited him, but who else do we need to know about?
As you can imagine, our guards will be the story once again this year. Corey Fisher is coming off a BIG EAST 6th Man of the Year Award and is now starting and he’s on fire to start the year. Similarly, Corey Stokes is now a top-flight defender and has added the dribble-drive to his outside game. After sitting out last year Taylor King has looked great so far and freshman PG Maalik Wayns actually led the team in scoring on Monday night against Penn. Antonio Pena is the lone returning presence in the frontcourt. He’s quite the enigma. Beyond that you have Dominic Cheek coming off the bench as a freshman and Mouphtaou Yarou in the starting lineup. We’ll get to him in a just one second.
How difficult will it be for ‘Nova to replace the losses in the front court? And what’s you take on stud freshman Mouphtaou Yarou?
Right now the typical ‘Nova fan is thinking “Dante Who?” Just kidding actually. We all know it is going to be nearly impossible to duplicate what Cunningham, Shane Clark and Dwayne Anderson brought to the team last year. Antonio Pena is going to be the guy that needs to step up the most and so far he has looked good. But it is always a game-to-game thing with him. I heard the term “one-and-done” a lot before Yarou arrived. I don’t think so. He’s extremely talented. You can see that. He runs well, he has a good feel for the game and he’s got a nice touch around the rim. But he’s raw, and prone to fouls as we found out on Monday. He fouled out in just 17 minutes. Beyond those two look for Maurice Sutton to log some minutes here and there and for Taylor King and Corey Stokes to help out the most with rebounding. Reggie Redding can’t return from suspension soon enough.
What kind of defensive front can we expect Thursday? A lot of pressing? Man to man? Zone?
We don’t play zone, ever. At least not that I can remember. We are strictly a man-to-man team and we’ll throw a full-court press in there from time to time when we want to pick up the pace. Our guards are great at getting in the face of the man with the ball and helping out on the backside when the ball gets inside. Right now, our interior defense is an unknown because we’ve played two terrible teams. There’s been plenty of blocks, but who knows if that will continue once the competition gets better.
It wasn’t long ago I remember the Wildcats running a four guard lineup, is that something we might expect to see with the lack of front court experience?
After Monday’s win I posted that Jay Wright was doing shots of Cuervo on the sidelines and just pointing at 5 guys and telling them to go in. It really felt like it. Any combination of players he put on the floor worked. Some of the lineups we saw we won’t see ever again. But I think you will see a little bit of the 4-guard lineup on Thursday. My best guess would be Reynolds, Fisher, Stokes, King and Pena or Reynolds, Fisher, Wayns, Stokes and Pena. Jay loves his guards and we have them in spades this year. I don’t want to see it too much because it means the frontcourt isn’t getting the job done but it is nice to know we can fall back on that when we have to.
How much of an impact will the Duke transfer Taylor King have this year?
I actually just completed my ode to Taylor King today. He’s been fabulous so far. Diving for loose balls. Yelling. Clapping. It’s all there. Plus that vaunted shot of his. But the biggest thing has been his defense and rebounding. Those were two huge question marks coming into the season. So far he’s been enthusiastic on defense, but we’ll see if it holds up when he faces more athletic players. But the rebounding has been spectacular. He’s grabbed 7 boards in each of the first two games and seems to be in on every loose ball. He’ll be in the running for BIG EAST 6th man of the year for sure.
What will the Patriots have to do in this game to pull off the upset?
Two things. One is slow the ‘Nova offense down. We have weapons everywhere so it isn’t easy. So far we’ve been shooting the crap out of the ball. Really, just not missing, especially from beyond the arc. If you can get Villanova into a halfcourt set and deny the guards the outside shot, as well as the dribble-drive, we could have some problems because we haven’t really had that classic ‘halfcourt game’ yet that Pittsburgh gives us every year. The other thing is work Villanova’s interior. Yarou is foul-prone, and Pena has been in the past although he’s been better this year. There isn’t much true-depth there either. That’s an area George Mason should look to exploit.
I’m semi-worried about this game. I think Villanova will win, but I expect it to be a dogfight well into the 2nd half. I’d look for the experience of Reynolds, Fisher and Stokes to carry the Cats out in the end though. 84-72 ‘Nova.
Here is a highlight video of the Wildcats 103-65 rout of Pennsylvania the other night: