Shortly before tip-off of Villanova's lone exhibition game of the 2016-17 season, the Wildcats unveiled the 2016 National Championship banner which now takes up residence in the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center:
With that out of the way, it was time to focus on the 2016-17 season ... time to begin a new journey.
The Villanova starters were announced: Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges and Darryl Reynolds. What? No Kris Jenkins, you ask? Jenkins missed his target weight at weigh-ins earlier this week and was given the role of sixth man for this game.
Here are the player introductions:
The first made bucket was a three from Mikal Bridges on the right wing. IUP shot the ball fairly well to start and kept the score as close as 15-13 before 'Nova started to go off. The Cats would shoot 28-48 from the floor for the game with 16 made three-pointers. A 51-23 half-time edge continued to grow as Villanova dominated the glass and moved the ball well to find open shots all over the floor.
One thing that appeared clear was that Jay Wright seems set on running an eight-man rotation early in the season. In addition to the starters and Kris Jenkins, Wright had Eric Paschall and Donte Divincenzo heavy in the mix while sitting Tim Delaney and Dylan Painter until late in the second half.
Josh Hart: Played superbly. He drove it, passed it, and shot it well on his way to 27 points in 30 minutes of play. He is a pre-season All-American selection and was chosen by Big East Coaches as the Pre-Season Big East POY and he looked every bit of both of those in this game. He is strong, quick and continues to play with his monster ticker. Expect him to pick up right where he left off last season - plus some!
Kris Jenkins: Drilled a couple of NBA range threes and knocked down a mid-range J. He took what was given and didn't force his offense to hunt shots. Given the wealth of dribble-drive options among the eight-man rotation, Jenkins primary role in the offense will be to stretch the floor as opponents are forced to guard his deep ball. Of course, his skill package is so much more than that with his passing and ability to pump-fake and dribble-drive ... he will be a handful for teams to try to slow down.
Mikal Bridges: Dropped in 17 points while grabbing 6 rebounds. Bridges played very well defensively and knocked down three three-pointers that were dead center. Look for Bridges to have a fabulous season if he can continue to stroke the deep ball with consistency. If defenses have to come out and respect him outside of twenty-some feet, he will be able to drive and slash effectively.
Phil Booth: Booth looked very good. He has the confidence to use his pull-up, mid-range game as his bread and butter while remaining ready to fire from deep when the ball rotates around the perimeter. He will be able to score when needed - he will gladly defer when needed ... great weapon to have on a team with as many skilled wings as 'Nova has.
Darryl Reynolds: He had a highlight reel power dunk but was generally quiet offensively. He doesn't need to put up big numbers from the low post but he will need to keep defenses honest. On a couple instances where he received the entry pass in the low post, Reynolds was hesitant to make a decision to pass the ball or take his man with a post move. He will need to speed that up. His defense and rebounding were solid.
Jalen Brunson: He came out playing with a ton of energy and helped set the tone. Knocked down a couple of early three-balls. Handled the ball with strength and made great decisions. His leadership and demeanor were exactly what 'Nova fans want to see from him this season.
Eric Paschall: Paschall played a lot of minutes - with quite a number of them being at the 5. He drained threes, he dunked on the heads of post defenders and showed that he can finish around the basket. He put up 18 points and 8 rebounds - quality numbers albeit against low level comp. Nobody is going to look forward to having to defend 'Nova when Paschall, Jenkins, Hart, Bridges and one of Booth or Brunson are in the line-up together. Spread the floor, move the ball, get great shots and leave defenses in ruins.
Donte DiVincenzo: DiVincenzo produced a mix bag of results. His first corner three-ball was a bit rushed and he lost the form that a has looked so strong of late. He made a couple of poor decisions on offense but then settled in a played more controlled. He is aggressive on defense and willingly competes on the glass. Ran the point in the second half with decent results.
Tim Delaney: He entered the game prior to Painter in the rotation. He has good size but lumbers a bit to keep up with the pace of the game. Delaney drained a corner three-ball and played some good positional defense. Played hard.
Dylan Painter: Painter looked raw. He threw his weight around in the paint on both ends but didn't get into the flow on offense in his limited minutes.
The 2016-17 season begins on Friday, November 11th at the Pavilion as the Cats host Lafayette at 6:30 PM (FS2/610 Sports Radio)