Nov. 1, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - After more than a month of practice and last week's public intra-squad Blue and White Scrimmage, the Villanova Wildcats are looking forward to the chance to face an opponent. That chances comes this Saturday when the West Chester Golden Rams come to the Wells Fargo Center for an exhibition contest.
"We're excited to face someone else," stated sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono. "We've been taking it to each other in practice for a while now."
With the annual Special Olympics Fall Festival underway this weekend at the Pavilion, the Wildcats head to South Philadelphia for their sole exhibition game. This marks the fourth time in the last five seasons that Villanova has hosted its exhibition game at its home away from home.
West Chester finished 20-8 in 2012-13 and was picked to win the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Eastern Division in a vote of the league's head coaches. The Golden Rams featured a balanced attack last season with eight players averaging between 11.5 and 4.7 points per outing.
Leading scorers Cory Blake, a 6-5 guard, and 6-1 Troy Hockaday, lead the cast of returnees for West Chester coach Damien Blair.
Villanova, meanwhile, was picked to finish fourth in the pre-season BIG EAST poll released last month and received votes in the first Associated Press poll of 2013-14. The Wildcats welcome back four starters from a team that finished 20-14 last season and reached the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
Gone is 6-10 forward Mouphtaou Yarou and his knack for draining face-up jumpers and collecting rebounds will be felt by the Wildcats. Sophomore Daniel Ochefu, who served as Yarou's primary understudy in his first season in the program is expected to take the majority of the minutes in Yarou's absence.
This version of the Wildcats won't have the same kind of interior height the team boasted a year ago, when Yarou, 6-11 Maurice Sutton and Ochefu prowled the interior. Aside from Ochefu, the only Wildcat who stands taller than 6-8 is freshman forward Darryl Reynolds.
"We were small back in 2006 but I wouldn't call this team small," said head coach Jay Wright. "Our guards are Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard, who are 6-3 and 6-6. James Bell is 6-6, 225 and Josh Hart is a 6-5 guard. I think we're more of a mid-size team than a small one."
It will be incumbent upon all of the `Cats to contribute on the glass, where the 2012-13 Wildcats were especially strong. All hands must be on deck in that exercise so that it doesn't fall solely on the shoulders of Ochefu.
Villanova suffered a pre-season setback last week when sophomore guard Dylan Ennis broke the third metacarpal bone in his right hand. He has been sidelined since suffering the injury and isn't due back to the lineup any time soon.
Wright pointed to Hart as one who has stepped in to help fill the void created by Ennis' absence over the past week.
The Wildcats will play four regular season BIG EAST games at the Center, beginning on Jan. 20 against Creighton. This looms as an important dress rehearsal for the `Cats, who open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 8 at the Pavilion against Lafayette.