Friday Preview: Wildcats lead from within

Hilliard, along with Bell, fueled the Wildcats to a 53-point second half and past Xavier. (Mike Angelina/Philahoops file)

Who: Seton Hall (13-9; 4-5 Big East) vs. No. 6 Villanova (20-2; 8-1 Big East)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: The Pavilion—Villanova, Pa.

TV / Radio: Fox Sports 1 / CBS Sports Radio 610 WIP-AM


Philahoops Staff


Fran Dunphy, a man with nearly 500 wins to his credit has seen and been around a lot of basketball teams. He has coached in multiple leagues and settings, from the Ivy League to the A-10 to the American, which boasts two of the three most recent national champions. Heck, he has even coached an Ivy League team to not one, but two top-25 appearances in separate seasons.

So when Fran Dunphy voices an opinion of a basketball team and its dynamic, consider it an educated one.

Saturday, after falling to Big 5 rival Villanova, a team he studies to play annually, he made a few remarks, somewhat unprompted, on their leadership set-up from Jay Wright’s team. He credits their ability to lead from within, as teammates, as to why the great success this season, alluding that it gives them strength as an indestructible unit.

“I would say they must have a lot of leadership in that locker room,” Dunphy explained. “I just think there’s a toughness about him, them and within the group.”

Wright felt privileged to hear a tenured coach like Dunphy say that about his team, and confirmed his suspicion. Villanova, under Wright’s tremendous leadership, operates at its fullest due to the on-court leadership.

“Yeah I think he’s right, it means a lot coming from Dunph,”he said.

He broke down what they have. Among that are three junior or senior starters. Not to mention Ryan Arcidiacono, a sophomore with a rather large pedigree of success, as well as freshmen Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, who come from winning amateur programs in high school.  

“So you have: James [Bell] is the leader,” he explained. “Then you have Tony [Chennault], who’s a senior, Darrun [Hilliard] and JayVaughn [Pinkston]have been in the program for three years.

According to Wright, those are winning ingredients.

“So you have four guys that have been out there,” he noted. “You have some veteran guys, some mature guys and that really helps in college basketball.”

Look through recent champions and that would be the case. Veteran teams like Louisville, the senior Kemba Walker-led Connecticut Huskies and the back-to-back upperclassmen champions of the Florida Gators have all been fueled on veteran keystone players.   

“A smart basketball person sees that,” Wright added.

And even if a starter takes a seat, or if they need someone to control and lead the bench, he has a leader in senior Tony Chennault. Despite only being on the Main Line for less than two seasons, he has a resume that leads to trust. Wright points to his experience in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which includes games against North Carolina and Duke, as confirmation of toughness.

“Tony Chennault does a great job of leadership, even though he’s only be here for two years,” Wright added. “Even though Tony’s been here two years, he’s played in the ACC for two years,”

Wright senses he has a special group, and does not step in the way. If there is a moment of leadership necessary, he trusts his veterans to handle it itself.

“When you have a special team, you have special leaders like that,” he declared.

It all comes from inside. According to Dunphy, it all stems and functions from within.

Scouting Seton Hall: Lost to Villanova 83-67 on Jan. 8 at home…last game: On the road, they knocked off Xavier 68-60…The backcourt of Fuquan Edwin and Sterling Gibbs lead the Pirates in scoring, averaging 14.3 and 14.4 ppg, respectively…In their previous meeting, Brian Oliver led the team in scoring as Edwin did not play…Seton Hall has the second-worst scoring defense in the Big East…Behind only Creighton, the Pirates have the second-highest three-point shooting rate in the league

Scouting Villanova: Led by Darrun Hilliard’s 19 points, the Wildcats easily knocked off Seton Hall a month ago…Jay Wright is one win away from reaching career win number 400…Compared to Seton Hall, who is the worst rebounding team in the league, Villanova is second behind only Xavier. Despite that though, they did outrebound the Musketeers. 

Prediction: An explosive offense nine men-deep compared to the worst scoring defense in the league? Sounds like another Wildcat win. 

Sound-off: How does this team compare, thus far, to the 2006 and 2009 teams?


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