Maalik Wayns

Villanova freshman Ryan Arcidiacono comes up big in overtime win over Purdue

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Just looking at Villanova freshman Ryan Arcidiacono, he looks like the kid who’s always picked first in your Saturday rec league.

He’s young, still with that youthful freshman face that stands out amongst his older teammates, packed with raw talent, a dash of flash, and a confidence beyond his years.

As a true freshman, Arcidiacono has more or less been handed the reins of the program on the court, the starting point guard for a team that is trying to compensate for the early departure of last year’s leading scorer at that position, Maalik Wayns.

“It’s fun coaching him. Ryan is another really high IQ guy. It’s really fun,” said coach Jay Wright. “When you know a guy who knows the game and studies the game, that’s great.”

But not only is Arcidiacono walking into the starting job with a Big East program, he didn’t play his senior season at Neshaminy (Pa.) because of a back injury.

“We went out and took two transfers because I wasn’t really sure he could play,” said Wright. “I’m amazed at what he’s doing. Not basketball wise, but physically. His timing is there.”

In just his second collegiate game, Arcidiacono went for 25 points and six assists in a win over Marshall. He started out hot against Purdue with 10 points in the first half, but then cooled off in the second half. He then picked up later in the second half and overtime, finishing with 18 points and six assists. He did, though, turn the ball over seven times.

This is the up-and-down that Wright and the Wildcats are working through as Arcidiacono settles into his role. At times, glimpses of a player who could flourish in the program, at others hitting some freshman bumps in the road.

“There are some bad spots,” said Wright. “Real good experienced teams play real good forty minutes. We’re not there yet, but they’re going to be a lot better at the end of the year.”

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Villanova sophomore Ty Johnson to transfer

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Villanova sophomore Ty Johnson will transfer from the program and look to continue his career at another institution, the school announced Wednesday.

Johnson averaged 3.3 points in just under 18 minutes per game last season and plans to continue working out with the coaching staff as he finishes his fall semester at Villanova.

“We’re going to miss Ty,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said in a statement. “He has handled this with class. We all respect his work ethic, athletic ability and commitment to this program. We want what’s best for Ty.”

Johnson is a native of Plainfield, N.J. and was a top-75 recruit in the Class of 2011 and chose to attend Villanova out of high school over St. John’s, Georgetown, Virginia Tech, and Rutgers.

Villanova’s backcourt says goodbye to Johnson following the departure of two key players after the 2011-12 season when Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek both decided to turn pro. To fill the void, Wright has brought in Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault, who is eligible to play immediately, and freshman Ryan Arcidiacono.

The Wildcats open their season on Friday against District of Columbia.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Conference Preview: Louisville is the favorite in Big East after run to Final Four

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

It came as no surprise last week when the Big East coaches resoundingly named Louisville the preseason favorite to win the conference, but what about the other storylines?

This year’s edition of the Big East has all of the ingredients for drama: realignment storylines, television negotiations, and a little preseason war of words.

Let’s break it all down:

Five Things to Know

1. “Realignment” is the word in the Big East. Absent at Media Day was a longtime fixture, Bob Huggins, whose West Virginia Mountaineers are now members of the Big 12. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are both entering their final season in the conference before heading to the ACC. Notre Dame is likely negotiating some sort of deal to head to the ACC early, as well. On the horizon wait Memphis, Temple, UCF, Houston, and SMU, ready to enter the league. Prepare yourself for frequent “this could be the final match-up…”-type storylines as the season progresses.

2. Louisville is the preseason favorite to win the conference, but much of its success hinges on Big East Preseason Player of the Year Peyton Siva. We saw different versions of the then-junior point guard last season. Who will ultimately prevail this season, the player who was the catalyst for Louisville’s run in the Big East and NCAA tournaments or the player who averaged 5.4 points and 3.6 turnovers per game for a seven-game stretch in late December and January?

3. Connecticut is in a season of change. Not only are they banned from the Big East and NCAA tournaments, but longtime head coach Jim Calhoun announced his retirement earlier this year. Former Husky assistant Kevin Ollie now takes over the program. Players say that, though more stern, Ollie is the same optimistic leader as they remember him in his assistant role. He might be just what they need in this season of transition.

4. Syracuse has lost a number of key pieces from last season, among them Dion Waiters, Fab Melo, Kris Joseph, and Scoop Jardine, but comes into 2012-13 as a top-15 team nationally that is ready to compete for a conference title. Expect sophomore Michael Carter-Williams to have a breakout year.

5. Stan Heath and South Florida surprised a lot of people last season when they finished 22-14 and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament. Point guard Anthony Collins returns for his sophomore season and will be key. Interesting note: Despite the slow offensive tempo that produced just 59.2 points per game last season, Heath told NBCSports.com at Big East media day that this year’s team is built to play faster, so don’t be surprised if we see Collins lead the “Running of the Bulls.”

Impact Newcomers

C Steven Adams (Pittsburgh)

The 6-10 Adams was chosen by league coaches to be the Preseason Big East Rookie of the Year and will have expectations to match in 2012-13. The New Zealand native likely has been praised by scouts for his upside.

C DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

The local prospect will have to help in compensating for the loss of Fab Melo to the NBA. Reports are that he has lost significant weight (he was last listed at 6-9, 275 pounds), which should make him more mobile.

F Montrezl Harrell (Louisville)

Rick Pitino and the Cardinals were fortunate enough to land Harrell after he decommitted from Virginia Tech this spring. Point guard Peyton Siva says he already sees improvement in the 6-8, 215 forward, who should provide more stability in the frontcourt.

F Stephen Domingo (Georgetown)

Domingo was a member of the Class of 2013 until he committed to Georgetown and sped up his high school timeline. The lanky California native should provide the three-point threat that the Hoyas need.

F JaKarr Sampson (St. John’s)

Sampson is an elite athlete who returns to the Red Storm after taking a post-graduate year at Brewster Academy in 2011-12. He has a different skill set than Moe Harkless, who left for the NBA after one season in Queens, but has a high ceiling and an undeniable “wow” factor when his athleticism is on full display.

G Kris Dunn (Providence)

With Ricky Ledo being ruled ineligible to play this season, Providence head coach Ed Cooley will rely more on his other star recruit, Dunn. Injury is holding him back for now, but if he doesn’t redshirt, he will change the complexion of the Friar offense.

Breakout Players

F Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse)

Carter-Williams played sparingly during his freshman season, but he’ll have an increased role because of the loss of key pieces to the NBA.

G Anthony Collins (South Florida)

If coach Stan Heath wants to implement a faster brand of offense, Collins is his man. Quick and explosive, the sophomore is ready to lead.

G Vander Blue (Marquette)

Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder have moved on to the NBA, which leaves Blue with a chance to shine.

G Ryan Boatright (Connecticut)

Plagued by NCAA investigations last season, Boatright should be able to focus and find his groove in 2012-13 as part of a backcourt with Shabazz Napier.

G Jerian Grant (Notre Dame)

He averaged 12.3 points and led the Irish with 5.0 assists per game last season, but didn’t get the national recognition that he should be able to grab this year.

Player of the Year: G Peyton Siva (Louisville)

The biggest question will be which Peyton Siva shows up for most of the season, but if the end of the season is any indication, we could be in for a special season from him.

Coach Under Pressure: Oliver Purnell (DePaul)

After a 3-15 season in Big East play, Purnell and his reported $1.8 million annual contract will have to prove some things in 2012-13. The Blue Demons are still projected to finish in the bottom third of the conference.

All-Conference Team

(*) denotes Player of the Year

G Peyton Siva (Louisville)*

G Vincent Council (Providence)

F Otto Porter (Georgetown)

F Jack Cooley (Notre Dame)

C Gorgui Dieng (Louisville)

Predicted Finish

1. Louisville–Coming off a Final Four run and with Siva at the point, the Cardinals are the favorite.

2. Syracuse—Personnel losses shouldn’t be a problem for the Orange. They have reloaded and will be solidly in the nation’s Top 15.

3. Notre Dame—Jack Cooley and Scott Martin are key, as are guards Jerian Grant and Erik Atkins. Could be the final Big East season for the Irish.

4. Cincinnati—Yancy Gates’ departure will hurt Mick Cronin’s team, but guard Sean Kilpatrick should be able to continue capitalize on momentum from last season.

5. Georgetown—The top three scorers for the Hoyas—Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson, and Henry Sims—have all left. This is Otto Porter’s chance to step up.

6. Pittsburgh—With no Ashton Gibbs, Tray Woodall takes on more responsibilities in the backcourt. Big man Steven Adams will play a role, as will transfer Trey Zeigler.

7. USF—The element of surprise is gone for Stan Heath’s team. Can they compete when other teams expect it?

8. Marquette—Crowder and Johnson-Odom aren’t easily replaced. If we’ve learned one thing, though, it’s not to underestimate Buzz Williams.

9. Connecticut—The general sentiment around the program is that this is not a loss season, despite the postseason ban. We’ll see what Kevin Ollie can do in his first season.

10. St. John’s—Steve Lavin returns after undergoing prostate cancer surgery and has another young, talented recruiting class coming to the Red Storm.

11. Rutgers—Coach Mike Rice began to lay the foundation with his recruiting class last season and now he will build on it. Eligible transfer Wally Judge should help.

12. Villanova—Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek have departed, take with them a combined 30 points per game. Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault and freshman Ryan Arcidiacono will compete for the starting PG spot.

13. DePaul—Cleveland Melvin once again is the centerpiece. Injuries plagued the Blue Demons last season.

14. Providence—Ricky Ledo being ruled ineligible hurts the Friars in the short term, but the long-term outlook is bright.

15. Seton Hall—Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope have left, and the NCAA’s decision not to grant a hardship waiver to guard Sterling Gibbs will make life more difficult in Jersey.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Could Jay Wright start true freshman Ryan Arcidiacono at point guard for Villanova?

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With the losses that coach Jay Wright and Villanova have suffered in the backcourt, is it plausible that true freshman Ryan Arcidiacono could be handed the reins to begin the 2012-13 season?

CBS Sports analyst Jon Rothstein thinks so, as he tweeted this week.

Arcidiacono, a 6-3, 185-pound local product, missed much of last season with injury, but with Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek leaving to go pro after last season, Arcidiacono seems to be the next in line.

Aside from the plain fact that starting a true freshman in a conference like the Big East can be difficult, Arcidiacono as a wide range of skills that could help him in his first year.

As a passer, he has tremendous court vision and has a knack for finding teammates in a position to score. Not only can he find teammates, but he can create for himself and step out beyond the three-point line and make shots with consistency.

Without Wayns and Cheek, the Wildcats lose out on close to 30 points of scoring per game, just under half of their total scoring output per game last season.

Expectations aren’t high for Villanova this season, having been picked to finish 12th in the conference by Big East coaches this week, so inserting Arcidiacono and allowing him to develop with in-game experience could be the best bet for Wright and the Wildcats.

But, don’t discount Tony Chennault, the Wake Forest transfer who was ruled eligible to play immediately at Villanova. If he doesn’t compete for and perhaps get the starting job, he’ll be key as a complementary piece.

They begin their season on Nov. 9 against District of Columbia.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Villanova announces the addition of guard Mislav Brzoja to program

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Villanova has officially added one more guard to their 2012-13 roster, announcing on Friday that 6-4 Mislav Brzoja has joined the program.

Brzoja, who played his senior season of high school basketball at Traders Point Christian Academy in Whitestown, Indiana, was originally a Northwestern commit but was denied admission to the school.

Originally from Zagreb, Croatia, Brzoja played for the country’s U-18 team in the European Championships, averaging 15.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game as Croatia won the title.

Brzoja shot 41.2% from the field for the tournament, in which 50 of his 102 field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, and he ranked fourth in the competition with an average of 2.3 steals per game.

“We’re excited about what Mislav will bring to our basketball team,” said head coach Jay Wright in the school release.

“He had a great U18 championship for Croatia, where he captained his team to a gold medal. Mislav is an outstanding student and tough competitor who will add to the perimeter depth of our team.”

Brzoja joins Ryan Arcidiacono and Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault as back court newcomers eligible to play immediately for Villanova this season, with Rice transfer Dylan Ennis having to sit out 2012-13 per NCAA transfer rules.

Villanova, who has to account for the departures of Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek, returns James Bell, Darrun Hilliard, Ty Johnson and Achraf Yacoubou on the perimeter.

Photo credit: Robertas Dackus/FIBA Europe

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Villanova’s Maalik Wayns to ‘test the waters’ of NBA draft

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The Philadelphia Daily News is reporting that Villanova junior point guard Maalik Wayns will enter him name into the 2012 NBA draft but will not yet hire an agent, leaving the door of possibility open for him to return to Villanova for his senior season.

“I want to test the waters at this point to see where I stand,” said Wayns in a statement.

Wayns is a graduate of Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School and led Villanova with over 17 points and four assists per game in 2011-12, earning him the honor of being named to the All-Big East second team.

Reports are that Villanova coach Jay Wright was expecting the move, and Daily News sources indicate that there is a strong possibility that Wayns remains in the draft, though he likely will not be a first-round pick.

“I think this is a smart decision for Maalik at this stage of his career,” said Wright in a press release. “I look forward to working with him as we go through this process.”

If he does not hire an agent and maintains his amateur status, Wayns can withdraw his name from the draft by April 10 and return to Villanova.

Recent Villanova guards Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, and Corey Stokes now continue their careers overseas, and former Jay Wright guards Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry are enjoying solid NBA careers.

New NCAA rules concerning declaring for the draft have made the situation more complex. Players must decide whether they want to be in or out by April 10, but the NBA early-entry deadline is April 29.

As Jonathan Givony of Draft Express explains,  “NBA teams can’t work out or interact with underclassmen until the early-entry list comes out a few days after the deadline (around May 1st).”

This would seem to render the April 10 NCAA deadline insignificant because players have until the 29th to submit their names, without the NCAA’s ability to “hold players back,” if you will, from entering the draft. If Player X were to enter the draft on, say, April 21st, the NCAA has no way to keep that from happening. That would only mean that Player X would not be able to return to school.

The difference this year is that players will not be able to go through the work out process with NBA teams, gauge their value, and decide, as that cannot take place until after about May 1st.

Trust that this discussion won’t go away, as players continue to throw their hats into the ring for the 2012 draft.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_