VUSports Big East Preview: Villanova

Broc Libra finishes off his Big East predictions and previews with a look at the Wildcats ...

The 2016-17 college basketball season starts today.  I’ve predicted the following Big East standings so far:

2. Xavier

3. Creighton

4: Seton Hall

5: Butler

6: Georgetown

7: Providence

8: St. John's

9: Marquette

10: DePaul  

With the team I predict to finish 1st, I go to the reigning national champions, the Villanova Wildcats.

2015 – 2016 season

I mean, you can’t do much better than National Champions, right? However, it wasn’t all gravy for Villanova as they lost two out of three games to Oklahoma and Virginia, where people seemed to doubt their ability. The Wildcats started peaking at the right time, but then a somewhat shocking result as they were upset in the Big East Tournament Final to Seton Hall, only to steam roll through the NCAA tourney by beating 4 teams by at least 19 points, and everyone knows what happened in Houston.  However, a 3rd straight 16-2 Big East regular season shows that Villanova is still the team to beat in the Big East for a 4th straight year. 

Who left from last year?

Similar to Xavier, this list could have been a lot worse.  Villanova lost two rocks of the program, essentially the equivalent to the Kentucky’s Unforgettables, brought the program back from a tough losing season and their skills and leadership will be tough to replace.  4 year captain PG Ryan Arcidiacono averaged 13 and 4 assists while playing solid D and senior captain big man Daniel Ochefu averaged 10 and 8 in only 22 minutes a game. Both players graduated as 1,000 point scorers and Ryan ended up with 535 assists and Daniel ended up with 929 rebounds. 

Who is new?

There isn’t too much turnover for these Wildcats as they have an eligible transfer & two true freshman, though one is not academically eligible. There are also two players who took redshirt years. The eligible transfer is super athletic wing Eric Paschall, who won A-10 freshman of the year at Fordham and left when their coach was fired. Paschall can play the wing or down on the block and use his athleticism to his advantage. Efficiency will be key for him. The two freshman are both bigs, Dylan Painter and Omari Spellman.  Painter, a 4 star player from Hershey is tough, can block some shots and has range out to the 3 point line, but he still needs some seasoning. A true loss to repeat as champions is the fact that 5 star big man Omari Spellman has to sit a year due to issues with his transcript. He’ll work on his body, slim down, and come back very strong. The players who are eligible to play after injury are guard Donte DiVincenzo and forward Tim Delaney. Donte can handle and is very athletic while Tim has good skills, a strong base and can really shoot the ball. Both will provide depth this year. 

Who’s returning?

One of the big questions this summer for the Wildcats was “Will Josh Hart return?” Luckily for Wildcat faithful, he has come back for his senior season and the accolades have already come in as he’s on the Wooden Watch list and is Preseason Big East POY. Look for Josh’s scoring to remain the same, for him to shoot a better percentage from 3, but maybe not be as efficient from 2, as he shot an insane 51% from 2 last year. Also returning is National Championship hero Kris Jenkins, who has become more of a scoring threat as opposed to just a shooter, stud PG Jalen Brunson who averaged 10/2 in a complimentary role, and junior SG Phil Booth, who is recovered from mono and his knee injury. Lastly, Mikal Bridges provides the Wildcats with so much versatility and Darryl Reynolds will get time in the middle as he continues to improve his energy, focus and skills, especially from his average of 4 points and 5 rebounds a game from last year. 

Big OOC games

Villanova plays another challenging schedule, though often times, that depends on how challenging the Big 5 is.  Big games for the Wildcats include @ Purdue, home vs. Virginia and Notre Dame in New Jersey. They will also play in the Charleston Classic with teams such as Mississippi St and Wake Forest, and also play @ Penn and Lasalle at the Palestra, and play home games against Lafayette, College of Charleston, St Joes (PA), Temple and American.  

Final predictions

Starting 5:

PG – Jalen Brunson (SO – 6 ft 1)

SG – Phil Booth (JR – 6 ft 3)

SF – Josh Hart (SR – 6 ft 5)

SF – Kris Jenkins (SR - 6 ft 6)

C – Darryl Reynolds (SR - 6 ft 8)

Remaining rotation (in anticipated order)

SF – Mikal Bridges (RS SO – 6 ft 7)

SF – Eric Paschall (RS SO – 6 ft 7)

SG – Donte DiVincenzo (RS FR – 6 ft 5)

C – Dylan Painter (FR – 6 ft 11)

PF – Tim Delaney (RS FR – 6 ft 8)

Final Thoughts:

For Villanova fans, this team will look different without number 15 and 23 starting as they have for the past 4 years but in many ways, this team looks the same. Phil Booth and Darryl Reynolds jump into starting roles while Bridges and newcomer Paschall move to first guys off the bench. The team chemistry will be there, but the fact remains will this team remain focused after winning the NC the year before and also talk of the NBA for more than one player. If they can lock in mentally and play hard, a repeat is definitely in play. Key issues could be rebounding and defense as Ochefu was a top rebounder in the country, but potential “death” lineups with Pascall/Jenkins/Hart/Bridges/Brunson or Booth, could prove too tough for teams to stop. This team is now the hunted, let’s see how they perform. 

OOC – 12-1 

Big East – 14-4

Combined – 26-5

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