Welcome to the SuperNova blog. The name, however, is not a reflection of how the Wildcats have been playing basketball lately.
Yes, we all know how tough the Big East is. But the Wildcats are going through an extended rough period right now. After a 16-1 start, they are 5-6 in their last 11 games. With three games remaining in the regular season against ranked opponents, there is real danger that the Cats could miss out on at least a one-round bye in the Big East tournament and have to play on its opening day Tuesday, March 8.
The first five teams have five defeats or less. Places sixth through 10 have six losses, including Villanova. Allowing for tiebreakers and the like, if the season ended today, two of those teams would not get a first-round bye, meaning they'd have to face an unlikely scenario -- winning five straight games -- to capture the tournament.
Villanova right now has to work on getting its offense going. It shot a season-low 32.3 percent in Monday night's 69-64 loss to Syracuse at the Wells Fargo Center. During the above-mentioned 11-game stretch, this marked the fifth time the Wildcats shot 40 percent or less from the field.
Justifiably, coach Jay Wright pointed out that Corey Stokes missed the Wildcats' three previous games prior to Monday night with a sprained left big toe, or turf toe (sorry, I can't merely say "turf toe" when it happened on hardwood without explaining what turf toe is). He also mentioned Maalik Wayns, who suffered back spasms in the first half, played at less than full speed in the second and left for good with 8:11 remaining.
So Wright is looking for the silver lining. He has to -- he's the coach.
“I think if we can get into a rhythm ... "Wright said after the game.
"We haven’t had Corey for three games. Then Maalik’s been a big part of what we do and we didn’t have him tonight. Not that that affects us winning and losing, I’m just talking about our offensive rhythm. I think we can get that. Mouph (Yarou) is young. Some nights, Mouph is really effective inside and sometimes he’s not. We really didn’t get him going tonight. So we have a lot of variables. I think as this season goes, and it’s closing out here, I still think we can get better offensively, in terms of getting into a rhythm."
Another problem offensively for 'Nova is the lack of scoring production from senior Antonio Pena. Pena had been draining the 15- to 17-foot mid-range jumper with regularity for much of the season. But counting Monday night's 3-for-9 performance, Pena is shooting 29.7 percent (11 of 38) from the field in his last four games.
"He had been shooting great," Wright said. "I think he'll get it going."
With the offense struggling, the defense and rebounding has been carrying the Wildcats. Monday night, however, the defense allowed too much inside (Syracuse outscored them 28-18 in points in the paint) and the rebounding was a stalemate -- 39 each, even though the Cats pulled down 19 offensive boards.
So it's up to the Wildcats to right the ship going into the Big East tournament. But precious time is running short. 'Nova's NCAA tournament seed is dropping by the day. As it looks from here, they're still a lock, but the Wildcats certainly don't want to start the post-season wondering if the next game is the last game.