Fairleigh Dickinson (0-0) at (5) Villanova (0-0)
Friday, November 13th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: The Pavilion (6,500) -- Villanova, Pennsylvania. Television: None. Home Record: FDU 0-0, Villanova 0-0. Away Record: FDU 0-0, Villanova 0-0. Neutral Record: FDU 0-0, Villanova 0-0. Conference Record: FDU 0-0, Villanova 0-0. Series Record: Villanova leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The fifth-ranked Villanova Wildcats begin their quest for a national title tonight, as they host the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights in non- conference play at The Pavilion.
The Wildcats enter the 2009-10 campaign with lofty expectations and for good reason. Jay Wright's club is coming off one of the program's most successful campaigns ever, as Villanova went 30-8 on its way to its first Final Four appearance since winning the national title in 1985. The Wildcats return several key contributors from last year's run, to go with one of the highest ranked recruiting classes, making them a contender for another Final Four showing.
As for FDU, endured another down season in 2008-09, finishing with just seven wins against 23 losses. With the recent struggles, the program decided it was time for a change and fired long-time head coach Tom Green. Greg Vetrone, former assistant at FDU, UC Irvine and UNLV, now steps in and he inherits a veteran club that needs a spark.
FDU and Villanova have met just twice before, with the Wildcats winning both encounters, including a 85-63 victory back in 2000.
FDU's most decorated returnee is Sean Baptiste, a 6-3 guard that can score in a variety of ways. Last season, he averaged a team-high 16.3 ppg, while also proving too be a solid rebounder and defender, notching 5.9 rpg and 47 steals, respectively. In the frontcourt, the Knights have six players ranging from 6-7 to 7-2, so that should help them sure things up defensively. Alvin Mofunanya (6-8) and Kamil Svrdlik (6-8) are the team's two returning starters in the paint and they combined for 15.9 ppg and 9.0 rpg last season. John Galvin, another 6-8 forward, is expected take on a starting role after producing 5.9 ppg and 5.3 rpg last season.
The Wildcats boast one of the best backcourts in the nation thanks to the return of Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Reggie Redding and Corey Stokes. Redding has been suspended for the fall semester, but overcoming that loss shouldn't be problem for this squad. Reynolds, a 6-2 guard that flirted with the NBA draft, highlights the trio after averaging 15.2 ppg and 3.4 apg last season. The star guard made good on 81.5 percent of his 215 trips to the foul line, while also leading the team with 59 swipes. Fisher, who earned Big East Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2008-09, produced 10.8 ppg and was also a defensive presence with 47 steals. As for Stokes, he too came off the bench and netted 9.3 ppg, while shooting 41.8 percent from long range. In the frontcourt is where the Wildcats were weakened with the loss of three key contributors to graduation. Antonio Pena, a part-time starter last season, is expected to pick up some of the slack and improve on his averages of 5.1 ppg and 4.2 rpg. Taylor King, a Duke transfer, and Mouphtaou Yarou, a highly touted freshman, will also get their chance to shine right away as well.
Villanova is the easy choice here and it should have no problems running away from a far less talented FDU club tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Villanova 90, Fairleigh Dickinson 60
11/13 10:37:30 ET