Editor's Note: The BIG EAST will be previewing both the men's and women's team from each BIG EAST member each weekday from October 22 to November 9 in advance of the 2012-13 season. Use hashtag #BECountdown to join the conversation on Twitter.
Villanova Wildcats Men's Basketball
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The Big Picture:
After seven straight 20-win seasons and seven straight NCAA invitations, the Wildcats hit a bump in the road last year. Villanova stumbled to a 13-19 overall record and a 5-13 BIG EAST mark. Coach Jay Wright wants his 2012-13 squad to regain its stellar reputation in the grit and tenacity department. An improvement in defense is definitely needed. Last season, the Wildcats were 15th in scoring defense in league games, allowing 75.6 ppg. Despite losing their top two scorers, Villanova expects to be better because of new blood in the backcourt and more experience and depth in the frontcourt.
Center Mouphtaou Yarou returns for his senior season. He is the team's top returning scorer, averaging 11.3 points. The 6-foot-10 center led VU with an 8.2 rebounding mark. Yarou often teamed with 6-foot-11 Maurice Sutton at power forward to form a strong rebounding and shot-blocking duo. On the wing, JayVaughn Pinkston averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 boards as a freshman and appears ready to emerge as one of the BIG EAST's top players. Junior James Bell will be angling for time at both forward spots. The team captain started 18 games last year and averaged 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds, though his career has been slowed by injuries. Both starting guard positions are open with sophomores Ty Johnson, Darrun Hilliard and Achraf Yacoubou vieing for more playing time. All three earned some starting duty as freshmen.
The guard tandem of Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek left after their junior seasons. Wayns was fourth in the BIG EAST in scoring with a 17.6 average. He led the league in free throw shooting, making 89.2 percent. An All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, Wayns also averaged 4.6 assists. Cheek averaged 12.5 points and led the squad with 57 3-pointers..
The Wildcat backcourt will have a new look in 2012-13. Junior Tony Chennault, a transfer from Wake Forest who will be eligible immediately, could grab one of the starting spots. He averaged 9.2 points last season and was a strong defender. Freshman Ryan Arcidiacono may be starting alongside Chennault. He is a point guard with long-range shooting skills. Johnson, Hilliard and Yacoubou will make it a strong competition at guard. Pinkston should continue to progress on the wing. If Bell can stay healthy, the frontcourt will be deeper and will help Villanova return to postseason play.