Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Wondering about Villanova

Aboard the 12:54 Amtrak to New York wondering what I'm going to see tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Wondering about Villanova

Corey Stokes, who scored 22 points against USF in January, is a game-time decision. (Chris O´Meara/AP)
Corey Stokes, who scored 22 points against USF in January, is a game-time decision. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

Aboard the 12:54 Amtrak to New York wondering what I'm going to see tonight at Madison Square Garden.

It's not thinking as much about the opponent (South Florida) in the first round of the Big East tournament as it is considering Villanova's fragile mental state at the moment

We don't get to see what's going on inside the Villanova locker room or during practice. So we only know what they choose to tell us. One area is injuries -- we didn't know Corey Stokes would be unavailable for the Pitt game until 90 minutes before tipoff, even though he got hurt two days before trying to block Maalik Wayns' shot at the end of practice.

We also don't know for sure about their psyche after four straight losses and six in their last eight games. Jay Wright, usually upbeat in discussing his team and how they're handling the rough seas of recent weeks, says it is not an issue, that the players are upbeat.

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He said the attitude is great, that his players are prepared every day for practice and work hard on the court and in the film room. He keeps using the phrase "continue to get better" although anyone who has watched the Wildcats in the last eight games wonder if the first word should be "start" or "resume."

Whatever the case, the time to snap out of this funk is now. Games are not guaranteed at this time of year. The Wildcats are assured of only two more -- the first round of the Big East tournament and next week's opening round of the NCAA tournament, where 'Nova's seed is sinking faster than confidence in government.

It is a perfect time to start rebuilding confidence among the players. The Wildcats didn't have much trouble with South Florida in the only meeting of the two teams back in January. The Bulls' guards were outplayed and their big men, considered the strength of their team, were neutralized by Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou.

But what happens Tuesday night is up the Wildcats. It's a fun time of year in a terrific atmosphere. 'Nova Nation will be out in force. The Cats must respond.

Stokes is a game-time decision, but I don't think he'll play. Fisher, who appeared to be having problems getting lift on his jump shots in the second half of the Pitt game, said he felt better Sunday after treatment.

Look for the Wildcats to milk the shot clock again, not getting into their offense until later in the shot clock. But they also have to be alert defensively, forcing USF turnovers and getting some easy baskets, a commodity that has been in short supply lately.

I think the Cats will beat the Bulls, but I also wouldn't be surprised if I'm going in the opposite direction on Amtrak at this time Wednesday.

--Joe Juliano 

Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog
Joe Juliano first visited the Palestra in 1970 after entering Temple University and became hooked for life on Big Five basketball. He'll always go with that name, figuring if the Big Ten can have 12 teams, why can't the Big Five have six?

Juliano joined the Inquirer in 1985 after 10 years at United Press International and has covered college sports for most of that time. His current beats are Villanova basketball, Penn State football, golf and the Penn Relays. Reach Joe at jjuliano@phillynews.com.

Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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