The big question for Villanova basketball is whether the Wildcats can be significantly improved or even slightly improved from last season’s 13-19 team.
After one game this can be answered with a simple question – who knows?
It’s hard to take much from the opening 78-58 win over Division II District of Columbia.
The Wildcats jumped to a 15-2 lead, but early in the second half held just a 33-31 advantage before pulling away.
The bright spot was the play of freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who had 11 points and four assists in 28 minutes.
Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault also spent time running the team and had five assists, although he shot 2 for 8.
One of the keys for the Wildcats will be their perimeter shooting, whether they will be able to stretch defenses.
Achraf Yacoubou, the 6-4 sophomore guard who averaged 2.2 points last season, came off the bench to hit 3 of 5 from beyond the arc in 15 minutes.
That was a positive sign, but the rest of the team was 2 for 12 from three-point distance.
In addition, Villanova couldn’t put away a scrappy UDC team away.
The Firebirds, who are guided by former Sixer player and assistant coach Jeff Ruland, had a slow start, but at least they had an excuse. Their bus broke down twice and they had to get new transportation. A member of the coaching staff said it took six hours to get to the game.
So they showed some fight and even though coach Jay Wright would have rather not seen the Firebirds get back in the game, but at least he got to see his how his team reacts in a close game.
“You make it (seem) good after it happens because you don’t have a choice but you don’t want to be in that position,” Wright said about squandering a lead. “It never hurts. Every experience we go through as a team will be good for us.”
And he saw something positive in the way the Wildcats pulled away early in the second half.
“I do like the way we responded to that,” Wright said.
Wright is still experimenting with his rotation, which is what these early season games are for. Nine players saw 15 or more minutes in the opener.
So there aren’t any definite conclusions coming out of the opener other than Villanova, as Wright said, needs a lot of work.
Then again, so does Kentucky or any other team at this stage.
It’s early. What Wright and any Villanova fan will be looking for is improvement in the second game, Sunday at the Pavilion against Marshall.