When you’re 28-2 and ranked fourth in the country – as Villanova is – it’s safe to say that you’re a good team. Brandon Tierney, however, is willing to take it a step further. In fact, he believes that this year’s Wildcats are the best that Jay Wright has had in his 14 seasons at Villanova.
Why? It’s simple. Villanova, always blessed with great guards, finally has size and skill down low with JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu to complement the Wildcats’ stellar play from the perimeter.
Tierney sees in Villanova a dangerous team destined to go on a deep NCAA Tournament run.
“It is a really dangerous team – but in a lot of different ways from some of the other teams that (Wright has) had,” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Steve Lappas said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I don’t know if I’m going to go totally that this is the best team that Jay’s had. Because I think that team that he had with Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry and Allan Ray and Dante Cunningham – that team actually, I thought, had more talent. This team, no doubt, plays unbelievable together. There was awhile there with where Darrun Hilliard was the best player in the Big East. The last couple games, he doesn’t do anything (and) they still win.”
Hilliard, who leads the team with 14.2 points and 1.8 steals per game, struggled in his last two games against Xavier and Creighton. He scored a combined 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting – this after averaging 22.5 points in his previous four games.
No matter. The Wildcats beat Xavier, 78-66, thanks to 31 points from Dylan Ennis and Ryan Arcidiacono, who then combined to score 42 in a 76-72 win at Creighton.
“That’s what this team has: tremendous balance (and) no real star,” Lappas said. “You wonder though, when it gets down to crunch time, not really having a star – is that going to hurt you? Or is that going to help you?”
Villanova, which has won 11 straight, closes the regular season at home against St. John’s (21-9, 10-7) this Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.
The Red Storm endured a tough midseason swoon in which they lost seven of 10, but they’ve since won seven of eight. What are the chances that this team goes on a run in the NCAA Tournament?
“Their chances are pretty good,” Lappas said. “The things about St. John’s – I’ve seen them a few times live – they’re so athletic. And if they’re able to stay out of foul trouble – which is a big key because they don’t have any depth – and they’re able to put pressure on you, they can really create a lot of havoc. They’re great in transition, they do turn you over, and their athleticism is really high-level. They’re the kind of team, though, (that) could go into an NCAA Tournament game, and all of a sudden two guys get two fouls early and they could have a real problem. So I just worry about their depth. But their talent (is incredible).”
Senior D’Angelo Harrison has been great for St. John’s, averaging a team-high 17.9 points per game to go with 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals. That’s what you expect from a senior standout. Sophomore Rysheed Jordan, however, has really come on strong lately, averaging 16.5 points in 38.5 minutes in his last four games.
“Rysheed Jordan is now playing the way people thought he was going to play when he came to St. John’s,” Lappas said. “(He’s) a McDonald’s All American, and he’s been absolutely terrific in his last (few) games.”
St. John’s has four players – Harrison, Jordan, Sir’Domonic Pointer and Phil Greene IV – who are averaging at least 13.2 points. The next-highest scorers, though, are Chris Obekpa, who is averaging 5.9 points, and Jamal Branch, who is averaging 4.7 points. Everyone else is below 2.0.
“This team has talent,” Lappas said. “Just absolutely no depth.”