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Rollie Massimino didn't get much sleep the night before his defending NCAA champs opened preseason practice. He worried that a summer of appearing in television commercials and mulling over a lucrative offer to coach the New Jersey Nets might have taken an edge off his furious work ethic. But three days into workouts he was able to report (with a very hoarse voice): "I was certainly ready when the gong rang."
Gong is right. This season's Wildcats were figuratively gonged when the final buzzer of the NCAAs ended the college careers of Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain and Gary McLain. Nova is left with experienced players short on talent and talented players short on experience. The exception is 6'7" senior Harold Pressley, who is as good a defender as Massimino has ever had. Pressley put some range on his jumper over the summer, and he'll need everything he can muster to keep Villanova afloat.
Pressley will have more room if it turns out that junior guard Harold Jensen has gained lasting confidence in his outside shot as a result of his 5-for-5 performance against Georgetown. Senior Dwight Wilbur most likely will open at point guard, but 5'9" freshman Kenny Wilson, a prep All-America, will take over after some seasoning.
But there's a big hole in the middle. Seven-foot senior Chuck Everson and 6'11" junior Wyatt Maker won't make the fans forget Pinckney. "We might not even go with a center," says Massimino ruefully.
Villanova will struggle. In the last four seasons the Wildcats are 23-8 in games decided by two points or less or that went to overtime. This season the task will be just staying close.