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November 2, 2009
Villanova fans got a double-dose of good news in the months that followed last season's Final Four appearance. Their point guard announced he was returning to school. And so did their coach. Shortly before Scottie Reynolds withdrew from the NBA draft, word leaked that Jay Wright had been contacted by the Philadelphia 76ers about their coaching vacancy. Wright, though, didn't take long to make his preference clear. "I love Villanova," he said. "This is where I want to be." Who could blame him? With six players returning on the perimeter and one of the nation's top recruiting classes now on campus, the Wildcats are favored to win the Big East and return to the Final Four for the second season in a row and just the fourth time in school history.
Scottie Reynolds has reason to be excited: Villanova is the early No. 1 in the Big East.
The graduation of Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark has left the Wildcats thin in the paint, where Antonio Pena is the only returnee with significant experience. Pena averaged 5.1 points off the bench last season and saw his minutes dwindle in March. Still, he is a candidate to start. Villanova is also hoping for contributions from freshman Mouphtaou Yarou and Duke transfer Taylor King. The 6-foot-10 Yarou is likely to start at center. King is a 3-point shooter who also can score inside, but he might not be strong enough to guard a power forward or quick enough to defend a wing.
Not many teams are as loaded on the perimeter as Villanova, which features six Big East-quality guards. The leader of the group is Reynolds, a third-year starter who has averaged 14.8 points or more in each of his seasons. Joining Reynolds in the backcourt will be Corey Fisher, who earned Big East Sixth Man of the Year honors last season. At 6-5, Reggie Redding adds size to the backcourt - and experience, too. He started 22 games last season. Other candidates to start on the wing are junior Corey Stokes and freshman Dominic Cheek. Stokes averaged 9.3 points in 2008-09. Cheek is a 6-6 McDonald's All-American who needs to add bulk.
Villanova's roster is so stocked with perimeter players, and so shallow in the frontcourt, that Wright might be forced to go with a four-guard lineup from time to time. Still, no matter what style of offense they employ, the Wildcats are talented enough to beat any team in the country - especially if they play well defensively.
Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.