Welcome from Barcelona! What an amazing city. Set my alarm clock for an early noon tip (almost didn’t make it since I broke curfew last night with my friend) and got to Palau Municipal d’Esport Badalona. When I got to the arena – which seated around 7,000 – I could not get in as there were no open doors or anything. Looked totally dead from the outside and that was 15 minutes before the tip. Me and two Spanish spectators got someone to open a door for us and we went in. Walking into the arena was very cool as it was an old school, dated Spanish arena for basketball. Very European inside with the large corporate banners ringing the arena. Soon after a Villanova fan group of about 50 entered together with a Spanish tour guide and Villanova staffers. All together there were maybe 200 fans.
First thing I noticed was Omari Spellman in street clothes on the bench. We need to start a “Free Omari” campaign! Then the Cats hit the floor to the cheers of about 50 fans – a far cry from the 75,000 at NRG Stadium playing for the National Championship. No more “Always Reppin’” warmups as they hit the floor – clean start, new team, new season - started a few hours ago. Also, it was a little weird without Arch. I miss him. No more Daniel – and I’m not sure we win the National Championship without him either… Henry Lowe is now a coach! …but we will be right there amongst the nations elite!
A few observations of the team – as you have access to the box – but I’ll go player by player next:
A. If you liked last year’s team, you will like this year’s team:
- They defend like crazy
- They work very hard on the glass
- They move the ball offensively
- They are unselfish
- They take good shots
- They are a good shooting team
- They play VILLANOVA BASKETBALL
B. They play fast – they push the ball up the floor by running the floor hard and passing the ball. Then they are lethal if they have nothing from their initial break attempt and get into their secondary break – which tends to enable many players to have clean looks for three or a hard back cut to the basket.
C. Our guards/forwards really are athletic in rebounding the ball – guys like Hart, Paschall, Dante, Bridges – really “intensely elevate” when working the glass
D. We continue to take good shots – our offensive efficiency was very good today
E. Guys like Paschall and Bridges are really quick and tough –with length - in closing out defensively.
F. Jay uses lots of different combinations including one with Dante/Bridges/Jenkins/Paschall /Painter
G. They look a lot like the group that just won the National Championship and clearly one deserving to be rated amongst the Nations Finest this season
On to the players:
A. Jalen Brunson – shot the ball with confidence 3-3 from deep) – defends hard, really digs in – can be careless with the ball (not a big deal, but Arch was pretty flawless with the Rock) – creative driver and looks to have improved as a finisher at the cup. Stud.
B. Phil Booth - looks like he did when he was healthy last summer – uber confident – handle is tighter – defends hard – impressive shooter in catch and shoot – phenomenal shooter of course. Phil and Jalen gives us a dynamite offensive backcourt.
C. Donte Divincenzo – Real Deal – unfortunately injured his ankle midway through third quarter. Redshirting him was a really smart move. In any case where you have a superb athlete with OK skills – redshirting makes sense. His athleticism is crazy. Led us in rebounding as a guard playing 14 minutes with 7 boards – crazy. Had multiple steals. His skills do need to get better though. 0-5 from 3. A double dribble. A couple of errant passes. Bottom line – certainly among the best athletes Villanova has ever trotted out there. Impact player- even if unpolished.
D. Josh Hart– see last year. Very similar – maybe a little quicker and more athletic this season. He is our leader of our team. Could average 18-6 next year. Really good player. BE POY candidate for sure.
E. Kris Jenkins – looking at his twitter periodically, it seems Kris has really enjoyed the off-season. Don’t get me wrong, he seems like has done a good job with his conditioning from what I can tell. Rusty from 3 ; not much better from 2. You can see it’s there, but it’s time to get focused for his senior season.
F. Eric Paschall – started at Center; was very active on the glass – really worked hard and was athletic early; hit two terrific turnaround 15 footers; missed the two threes he took; defended real hard. Came out of the gate hard – foul trouble limited his action. Defends the perimeter with a lot of energy; will be an impact player for the Cats for sure.
G. Mikal Bridges – looked too good for the game; 5-5 from the floor on a combination of crazy condor finishes and knocked down 2 catch-and-shoot perimeter shots. Had multiple steals or near steals; Rebounded; even played some PG – which was sloppy and scary.
H. Dylan Painter – great first outing for the big guy… Threw an airball, but otherwise scored 10 points and rebounded well. He’s going to be a good Center in the Big East at some point. Sets solid screens and is good finisher at the rim. He isn’t Omari, but he’s solid.
I will miss the first Madrid game on Sunday morning. Travel plans got mixed up – thought it was Monday/Tuesday and it’s Sunday/Tuesday and I’m not leaving Barca until Monday morning. Will report on Tuesday’s game. This is shaping up to be another 33-3 season. God Bless Jay Wright!!!!