Below is a Question and Answer with Chris Lane over at Nova Blog.
1. Two years ago, Villanova soundly defeated UCLA at home in the second round of the NCAA Tourney. How is this year's team different from that one? How is Scottie Reynolds being replaced?
Frankly, it's night and day. Scottie Reynolds was the face of that team - but seniors Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark were the heart and soul. I don't think we have the vocal leaders (yet) that that team possessed, but overall we have more talent. Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns form one of the best backcourt tandems in the country, and for once, we have a legitimate frontcourt.
We still like to press and run, but we've actually got a balanced attack instead of running the offense through 1 guy. The one similarity you will see (hopefully, as you are the first real test for us) is that our defense is the same quality as the last one you saw.
2. What are your expectations for this year's Villanova team? Big East Title, deep tourney run?
Not winning the BIG EAST title wouldn't kill me - but I certainly want it. Winning this meat-grinder of a league is a great testament to a team's character and talent. It's insanely difficult.
More importantly, we need to keep up our recent record of good tourney play (don't remind me about last year's disaster). As much as we BIG EAST programs pride ourselves on conference play, all that matters is The Dance. This is the type of team that can get back to the Final Four, and anything less is going to be a bit of a disappointment for the 'Nova fanbase, and probably the team itself.
3. Last year ended with a skid and possible team chemistry issues. Is that fixed and does this team like each other ? (How much of a problem was U$C transfer Taylor King?)
The team chemistry seems to be a lot better this year. Currently neither of our freshman are playing (James Bell due to injury, JayVaughn Pinkston due to pending legal matters) and the 8-man rotation we're throwing out there seems to gel no matter who is on the floor. This team is run by Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, and Antonio Pena - and that's evident in the way they lead the team.
Taylor King was an interesting case. I knew him personally and he was a nice enough guy off the court, but their were always rumours about him in terms of off-the-court behaviour. All I can say is oh well, and good riddance (he took some parting shots at us). We seem to be better off without him.
4. Give me the one player that UCLA fans will want to keep an eye on Wednesday night.
Both Fisher and Wayns are incredible to watch, but I'll give the nod to Wayns because he's got such an electric game. The only thing not working for him right now is his outside shot, but he seems to be able to break down a defense at will and either finish or find someone for an easy bucket.
On the defensive end he's a terror as well. He's a Philly kid in the mold of Kyle Lowry in that regard - he'll be in the face of whoever he is on all night.
5. How good is Stokes on defense? How do you think he matches up against Tyler Honeycutt?
Honestly, not quite sure just yet. The difference between last year and 2 years ago was staggering. He's really turned himself into a defensive stalwart. He's looks even better this year, but again, we haven't played anyone yet - although he has absolutely silenced the best player on every team so far. I think you're right he'll be on Honeycutt (with Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood sharing some duties as well) and I think it will be a fun matchup.
Right now, I'd say both players will have their moments. Honeycutt is too good not to get the best of him a few times.
6. How many Villanova fans do you expect at MSG? Is this a quasi home game for Villanova?
Judging by the people I've talked to, a fair amount. More will be there Friday though, win or lose on Wednesday. The night before Thanksgiving is tough for a lot of people, but I'd expect a decent showing. We've got thousands of alumni in the area and it'd be a shock not to see a good showing, even on Thanksgiving eve.
In terms of a home game - all I'll say is that last year vs. St. John's we dominated the crowd. But the holiday may help you all out a little bit in terms of crowd impact.
7. What's your prediction for how this game plays out?
I think we'll win, but I think you'll give us a good game. Neither of us has really seen a test yet, so the beginning of the game may be a bit sloppy as we both adjust to more talented opponents than what we have seen. Should be a fun game! Good luck!