The Cards started Big East play with two of the easier games on the schedule, but nothing will come easy from here on out. The challenge starts tonight as the Cards play at #7 Villanova.
Jay Wright is known for having a lot of guards and a few versatile big men, but Nova’s line-up this year is much more conventional than it has been in years past. The Wildcats are still very guard dominant, but do have a couple of strong big guys in the post.
Guards: 45 of Nova’s 77 points per game come from the three-headed monster of Malik Wayns, Corey Fisher, and Corey Stokes. These three guys can hurt you in so many ways. Stokes leads the team with 16.6 points per game and is shooting 46% from downtown. He will be a tough match-up for anyone on this Cardinal team. In my opinion, he is one of the many reasons you may see Coach Pitino go zone tonight. Fisher is your typical New York City combo guard. He is undersized, but just has a nack to score. He is averaging 15 points and 4.8 assists per game. He hasn’t shot the ball great from downtown this year, but he is still a guy you don’t wan’t to leave uncontested. Maalik Wayns usually runs the point for this Nova team and has been very effective so far this season. He is probably one of the quickest players in the nation. Wayns is averaging 13 points and 5.5 assists per game. He is not a very good outside shooter, but he fast enough to take anyone off the dribble. This Nova team is very stacked at the guard spot. If the Cards full-court press them, it could get ugly. This is just a hunch, but I think Rick will go with the bigger line-up of Dieng, SVT, Smith, Knowles, and Siva. I also predict that we see a lot of zone defense as well.
Post: The two starting post players for Nova are by senior forward Antonio Pena and sophomore center Mouphtaou Yarou. Pena is a solid forward who averages 9 points and 7 boards a game. His stats wont blow you away, but he is a big part of this team. I feel like he has been there for ten years. Yarou is a good-sized forward/center, but is still somewhat of a project. He is solid on the defensive end, but won’t hurt much in the post other than some put back buckets. However, I expected the same production from Josh Harrellson and we all saw how that turned out.
Bench: Nova doesn’t get a whole lot production off of their bench. They usually go about eight deep. Guard Dominic Cheek is probably the best player off the bench for the Wildcats. He plays nearly 23 minutes a game and is averaging about 8 points. Forwards Maurice Sutton and Isiah Armwood both play a little over ten minutes a game, but are not much of a factor statistically.
I’m not convinced that this Nova team is quite as good as Pitt or Syracuse, but with that being said I think this will be a very tough match-up for the Cards. I have a feeling we will see a lot of zone defense in the full-court press and half-court as well. The Cards will really need to keep Nova’s guards out of the lane and make them shoot contested shots. I also think they will need to shoot well from behind the arc, in order to win this one.<