Villanova Reloads for 2014

Ryan Arcidiacono will have to step up in his sophomore season.Coming off their worst season ever under head coach Jay Wright and the loss of their top two scorers and would-be Seniors to the NBA draft, the expectations were low for the 2012-13 Villanova Wildcats. Despite bringing in two top-50 recruits in point guard Ryan Arcidiacono and center Daniel Ochefu, Wright’s Wildcats were picked to finish 12th in the 15-team Big East Conference in the preseason coach’s poll.

In what was perhaps his finest coaching performance since his arrival on the Main Line, however, Wright guided the 2012-13 Wildcats to a 20-14 record overall, a 10-8 Conference record, and regular season wins over three top-5 opponents, earning Villanova their eighth trip to the NCAA Tournament in nine years.

Looking ahead to the upcoming 2013-14 season, the Wildcats return four starters from a year ago, including their top three scorers in Juniors JayVaughn Pinkston (13.3 ppg) and Darrun Hilliard (11.4 ppg), and Sophomore Ryan Arcidiacono (11.9 ppg). Senior swingman James Bell (8.6 ppg) is the fourth returning starter.

Center Mouphtaou Yarou, who started in the middle all season long for Villanova and played just less than 30 minutes per game, will graduate and leave a void along the frontline. Also set to graduate is backup center Maurice Sutton. Between the two, Jay Wright will be losing two of his three tallest players at 6’10 and 6’11, respectively. Yarou’s loss will be felt on the glass more than anywhere else after averaging close to eight rebounds per game during the 2012-13 season.

At 6-11, Sophomore Daniel Ochefu looks like he could be the only player on the roster taller than 6’7, meaning he’ll need to step up to help address the loss of rebounding and shot blocking inside the lane. When Ochefu comes off the floor, Villanova will have to go small, but with an abundance of guys between 6-5 and 6-7, Wright has a defensive lineup that could create havoc by switching screens and getting out in transition.

Wright has signed a pair of versatile forwards out of Washington, D.C. in 6’5 Kris Jenkins and 6’4 Josh Hart, both of whom have played their way into the top 100 incoming Freshmen for the 2013-14 season according to ESPN. Jenkins is an undersized but wide-bodied 4-man with a terrific inside-out skill set. He specializes in stretching opposing defenses out to the 3-point line but is an especially difficult matchup because he also understands how to use his wide body to his advantage on the interior.

Josh Hart is a 6’4 swingman who has the potential to play at least three different positions during his time at Villanova. Hart’s motor is his calling card, and he’s the type of guy who will raise the bar for everyone around him because of his toughness and work ethic.

Also joining the program for the 2013-14 season is 6’8 forward Darryl Reynolds, a 2012 graduate of Lower Merion High School who attended  Worcester Academy last year, a prep school in Massachusetts. Adding depth in the post was a priority for Jay Wright this offseason, making Darryl Reynolds an important recruit.

According to ESPN‘s scouting report, Reynolds is a physically gifted prospect with a tremendous basketball body. He has a long, athletic and chiseled frame with the muscle mass to bang inside the paint, the mobility to change ends and direction, and the athleticism to get his head on the rim to block shots and finish plays. He has the complimenting motor to maximize his physical tools, will score off the offensive glass and rebound out of his area.

With a solid combination of young, developing talent and experienced upperclassmen, there is very good reason for optimism at Villanova for the upcoming 2013-14 season. After exceeding expectations last year and gaining valuable experience playing in the rugged Big East Conference, this year’s Wildcats should be one of the better teams in the country.

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Andrew Dalton

Andrew grew up and still resides right outside Philadelphia in Montgomery County and has been a die-hard Philly sports fan for as long as he can remember. One of his earliest sports memories, unfortunately, was watching Joe Carter hit the World Series winning homerun off Mitch Williams in 1993 with his Dad. All that did however, was make the Phils' 2008 World Championship that much sweeter. You can follow him on Twitter @dutch4885.