Nov. 7, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - On an afternoon when Villanova welcomed home former standout and team captain Sam Sims to its practice, head coach Jay Wright looked ahead to Friday night's season opener against Lafayette with equal parts excitement and trepidation.
Back in 1970, Sims shared captain's duties for the Wildcats with Fran O'Hanlon. On Friday night, Sims and a number of his teammates from one of the most decorated eras in school history, will be in the Pavilion to watch the `Cats take on Lafayette, coached by their former sidekick, O'Hanlon.
"That was a great Villanova team," says Wright of a unit that won 22 games and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament before being knocked off by St. Bonaventure. One year later, Villanova came to within a game of the NCAA Championship before falling to UCLA 68-62.
The matter at hand is the dawn of a new season of Villanova Basketball. The Wildcats return four starters from a 20-14 team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in the last nine seasons. They will face a Leopards team that advanced to the Patriot League championship last season and is expected to contend for a league title in 2013-14.
"This is a great home opener in the sense that we have Fran O'Hanlon coming back but it's a bad home opener in the sense that they are a well-disciplined team that is extremely well-coached," states Wright. "This is a high IQ team that you don't want to play early in the season because if you are not disciplined enough defensively, you can get sliced up.
"That's the concern. This is a very good shooting team. They went to the Patriot League finals last year. They're used to winning. It's going to be a good game."
For the Wildcats, Wright hopes to see more strides made defensively.
"We are usually a little bit ahead defensively this time of year of than we are offensively," states Wright. "For some reason, with this group, I think we are a little bit further ahead offensively. We just have to keep working at it."
Wright said he expects both Ryan Arcidiacono and Kris Jenkins, each of whom dealt with injuries in Saturday's 88-50 exhibition victory over West Chester, to be available Friday night. Jenkins has practiced this week and Wright believes the freshman will be good to go after spraining an ankle in the first half against West Chester.
Arcidiacono, meanwhile, did not play Saturday as he dealt with bruised ribs suffered in an earlier practice. The 6-3 sophomore has been back at practice the past few days but Wright says it's been a tough week for his guard and he isn't sure how close to peak form Arcidiacono will be come Friday evening.
"I don't think it's going to be a long-term injury," says Wright, "but for this game I don't think he's going to be 100 percent. We'll see how it goes."
Tip-off Friday night is set for 8:02 p.m. Scott Graham and Tarik Turner will call the game on Fox Sports 2 while Ryan Fannon and Whitey Rigsby will broadcast the game on CBS Sports Radio 610 and through the Nova Nation All-Access Pass.