There's only one thing that matters for Villanova's basketball team at that moment. And that's making sure that senior forward Dwayne Anderson gets healthy and is ready to go when the Big East portion of the Wildcats' schedule begins on Jan. 1 at Marquette. That, and making sure they don't lose any other bodies in the meantime.
Because right now, without Anderson, they only have a seven-man rotation that includes just two big men. And no true center.
Anderson hadn't played this year, because of a stress fracture in his left foot. But he was in uniform for Tuesday's game at Penn, and actually played some minutes in the first half. Afterward, he was limping again. Not good. I know the doctors cleared him, and you have to start using him sometime to find out, but if I was Jay Wright I would take it very slowly. Even if means you hurt yourself for next week's games against Texas and Saint Joseph's. It's probably going to be tough to beat Texas even with a semi-healthy Anderson. Why risk it, unless you're 100 pecent sure?
It's obviously a delicate situation, with no right or wrong answers. Wright went through something similar last season, with then-sophomore center Casiem Drummond, who just announced he's transferring. He tried to come back late in the regular season, and it just never worked out. The Wildcats went to the Sweet 16 anyway. So expectations are even higher than usual. But that was counting on at least some contribution from Drummond, and a willing and able Anderson, who provided the spark last season once he was inserted into the starting lineup.
Senior Frank Tschuisi, who's 6-8, looks like he tries hard. Still, he's limited. Especially once the Big East starts. But if Dante Cunningham and/or Antonio Pena get into foul trouble, Wright doesn't really have a whole bunch of options. That's where Anderson's availability would really make a difference. The Wildcats have certainly shown they can play small when they have to, but there's only so much guards can do. Even good ones, which Villanova has. Eventually, size matters.
Apparently, the only way 6-11 freshman Maurice Sutton doesn't redshirt is if Cunningham or Pena go down for any extended period. Even then, it might not happen, because he's simply not ready yet. Nobody gets that more than the coach, who may need to be fitted for a new kind of jacket if he loses anyone else.
To me, Pena is the key. Cunningham has improved big-time from his junior season, especially at the offensive end. And he's a warrior. But at 6-8, he really hasn't played against someone who can match up with him yet. Doesn't mean he still won't put up some impressive numbers, but some things will change. Pena seems to have a promising upside. The more he can provide playing alongside Cunningham, the more that will free up Cunningham to continue doing what he's been doing. Funny how that works. It also means that Shane Clark is going to have to play bigger. Maybe even Reggie Redding, too. Just because.
But again, Anderson's return figures to lessen the load on everyone else.
In the backcourt, Wright likes the way Scottie Reynolds has been playing even though his shot hasn't been falling as often as it probably needs to. Always a good sign. And soph Corey Fisher is flashing more maturity all the time, even though he occasionally reverts back to his high school habits. You can tell the trust factor with Wright is gradually getting there. As for Corey Stokes, there are still parts of his game that need to grow. Chances are they will. But for now, his jumper can be a thing of beauty. He's one of those guys for which the new three-point distance has had little impact.
Anderson can burn you from that distance, too. Wright can only hope he gets the chance.