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September 30, 2008


Head coach: Jay Wright
Last season: 22-13, 9-9 in Big East
Postseason: Earned at-large bid to NCAA tournament. Lost to Kansas in Sweet 16, 72-57.
Breakdown: Probable starters | Backcourt | Frontcourt | Offense | Defense | Outlook

BACKCOURT

The Wildcats are loaded with talent and experience among the guards. All-Big East pick Scottie Reynolds is the leader. He led the Wildcats in scoring, ranking 10th in the Big East. He also shot a sterling 38.3 percent from 3-point range, good for sixth in the conference. Reynolds can handle the ball, shoot from long range, penetrate and create. He also does a great job of getting to the free-throw line, and he's an excellent shooter there, too. He topped the 20-point mark 12 times last season, and he increased his shooting percentage to a more respectable 41.2 percent. When Reynolds is on he is capable of taking over a game.

Dante Cunningham started 35 games last season and led Villanova in rebounding.

PROBABLE STARTING FIVE
G Scottie Reynolds, 6-2/Jr.
15.9 ppg, 3.2 apg, 3.1 rpg
G Corey Stokes, 6-5/So.
6.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg
F Antonio Pena, 6-8/So.
6.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg
F Dante Cunningham, 6-8/Sr.
10.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg
F Dwayne Anderson, 6-6/Sr.
6.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg
TOP RESERVES
G Corey Fisher, 6-1/So.
9.1 ppg, 2.7 apg
F Shane Clark, 6-7/Sr.
7.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg
G Reggie Redding, 6-5/Jr.
4.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg
C Casiem Drummond, 6-10/Jr.
4.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Villanova's Coreys were a mixed bag last season as freshmen. Both five-star prospects had their moments and their struggles. Corey Fisher was the better player early, but he didn't hold up well during Big East play. Corey Stokes went four consecutive non-conference games without scoring, but he came alive during the league portion of the schedule. Stokes posted seven of his double-digit scoring games against Big East opponents, and he dropped a season-high 20 on Siena to help put the Wildcats in the Sweet 16. Fisher is a ballhandler and distributor who can provide scoring punch. Stokes is more of a pure scorer who can catch and shoot quickly and with accuracy. Fisher ranked second on the team in assists and 3-pointers made to Reynolds. Stokes was third on the team in 3-pointers made. Fisher made 21 starts, while Stokes started only four times. Stokes averaged 7.3 points per game coming off the bench in 18 league games. Fisher averaged 8.7 points against conference foes.

Junior Reggie Redding provides added depth. He's a physical guard and one of the Wildcats' best defenders. He also takes good care of the ball. Redding made 18 starts last season and averaged 20.6 minutes.

FRONTCOURT

Villanova returns four forwards who each started at least 14 games last season. The leader is Dante Cunningham, the only player who started all 35 games for the Wildcats. He continued to make steady improvement. He led the team in rebounding and field goal percentage (54.4), and he finished second in scoring. Cunningham is extremely athletic and a tremendous leaper. He's quick off his feet and can finish at the rim. He posted five double-doubles last season, including 13 points and 11 rebounds against Marquette.

Dwayne Anderson is a defensive stopper with excellent quickness. At 6 feet 6 and a solid 215 pounds, he's called on to guard players at multiple positions. He started the final 14 games of the regular season and averaged 9.7 points and 7.0 rebounds in those games.

Shane Clark made 17 starts and scored in double figures 10 times. He is capable of shooting the long ball, but his 3-point percentage last season (28.6) wasn't quite where it needs to be. It was from the foul line, though, where he hit 84.1 percent.

Antonio Pena came on during his first season after redshirting. He made 19 starts and in those games raised his averages to 8.2 points and 5.8 rebounds. He gives the Wildcats their most significant threat on the interior. He had a double-double at Pittsburgh (10 points and 10 rebounds), and he went for 17 points and nine boards against Notre Dame.

Casiem Drummond provides depth and size up front. He was limited last season by ankle problems, and he had surgery on his right ankle after the season. His 4.9 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game don't sound like much until you consider they were achieved in just 13.2 minutes per game. In the 12 games in which he was able to play at least 12 minutes, Drummond averaged 7.1 rebounds. He is expected to be ready to go when practice starts Oct. 17.

OFFENSE

Coach Jay Wright is a motion-offense guy. The Wildcats run 4-out, 1-in and maintain excellent spacing. It creates a lot of room for their guards to operate and cut.

DEFENSE

If the Wildcats had a bit more presence on the interior they'd be a serious Final Four contender. They're deeper than a Coen Brothers movie, and they have solid guard play, multiple scoring options and top-notch coaching in Wright and his staff. The problem areas last season were shooting (12th in the Big East at 43.1 percent) and rebounding (ninth in the conference in rebounding margin). Defensively, Villanova was not up to Wright's normal standard. Expect many of the problems to be solved. Fisher and Stokes will both be improved, and the coach will make sure the Wildcats take better shots and tighten up on defense. Villanova is headed back to the NCAA tournament, and anything less than the Sweet 16 probably would be a disappointment.

The Wildcats are primarily a man-to-man team. They concentrate on taking away the center of the court and containing the ball. They weren't especially good last year, ranking 11th in the Big East in scoring defense (69.5 ppg). With their added depth there's a chance they could do some trapping to generate more pressure.

SHOES TO FILL

None. There are nine players returning who started last season, eight of them at least nine times. The top seven scorers return.

MUST STEP UP

The Coreys. They are capable of making the big leap so many freshmen do as sophomores. If one becomes a consistent scoring threat, perhaps even both, the Wildcats will be tough to handle on the offensive end.

IMPACT NEWCOMER

C Maurice Sutton. The three-star prospect is the only option as an impact newcomer because he is the only newcomer. Still, he could be redshirted if Drummond is fully recovered and ready to go.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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