The defending National Champion Villanova Wildcats return several key contributors from last year. They will not only be the team to beat in the Big East but once again be a major player come tourney time. These are special times for Villanova basketball fans.
Last Season: 1st, 16-2 in Big East, 35-5 overall
Predicted Big East Finish: 1st
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Darryl Reynolds (Sr)/Tim Delaney (rs-Fr)
PF: Kris Jenkins (Sr)/Eric Paschall (So)
G/F: Mikal Bridges (So)
SG: Josh Hart (Sr)/Donte DiVincenzo (So)
PG: Jalen Brunson (So)/Phil Booth (Jr)
Gone: G-Ryan Arcidiacono, C-Daniel Ochefu
The strength of Villanova basketball has typically been at the guard position.
That shifts somewhat this season as Jay Wright boasts a deep group of wings/forwards led by their top two scorers from a year ago, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Both seniors tested the NBA Draft waters this off-season but wisely chose to return for their final go-around at the college level. Their experience and ability to contribute in multiple ways on the floor is a luxury Wright has.
Add in Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and the improving Mikal Bridges, and the Wildcats have tremendous depth at forward.
Bridges is a jack-of-all-trades type player who is capable of playing numerous positions on both ends of the floor. He could be poised for a breakout season. Paschall was the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year during the 2014-15 season, averaging 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. At 6-7, 250 pounds, Paschall has a wide frame so he can throw his body around inside but can also step outside and knock down shots.
With the recent announcement that top recruit, Omari Spellman has been ruled academically ineligible for this upcoming season, Nova has a hole inside. Spellman was expected to replace Daniel Ochefu as the starting center but that responsibility now likely falls into lap of Darryl Reynolds. Reynolds played a significant role off the bench for the Wildcats last season but is more of a rebounder than scorer.
Redshirt freshman Tim Delaney is the only other player on the roster taller than 6-7 so the lack of a true inside presence and rim protector is a concern.
As a result, Jay Wright may have to utilize that versatility with his forwards by playing Jenkins, Paschall, or Bridges some at the five. That would give Villanova a smaller lineup which would be vulnerable on the glass but certainly provide the team with a more potent offensive lineup that would be able to stretch the floor with shooters at every position.
Villanova Basketball Player to Watch:
Jalen Brunson played a bit of an apprentice role last season to veteran floor leader, Ryan Arcidiacano. With Arcidiacono graduating, Brunson now holds the keys to the ship at Nova. The former McDonald’s All-American is more than capable of handling that responsibility. He showed great poise a freshman and seems to understand the balance of knowing when to be a distributor and when to score.
Expect him to take a step forward with his game and become one of the better point guards not only in the conference, but in the country.
After redshirting his first year at Nova, Bridges became a key contributor off the bench last season. While there is a logjam for minutes at the two through four this season, Bridges should see plenty of playing time due to his versatility and figures to be in the starting line-up. Some view him as a potential first round pick one day and he his game continues to improve, Villanova is a national threat.
Looking Ahead to 2017-18:
Getting Spellman eligible should give Nova the needed boost inside that they figure to lack this year. Wright has already secured a pair of commitments to help replace their senior forwards in top 50 recruit, Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. With Bridges, Brunson, Paschall, and Phil Booth all likely to return, the ‘Cats will again be a major threat throughout the country.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/14 at Purdue
11/17 vs. Western Michigan (Charleston Classic)
11/18 vs. Wake Forest/UTEP (Charleston Classic)
11/19 vs. MIssissippi State/UCF/Boise State/Charleston (Charleston Classic)
12/3 vs. St. Joseph’s
12/10 vs. Notre Dame (in Brooklyn)
12/13 vs. Temple
1/29 vs. Virginia
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Milwaukee to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag), and finished with the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft (nearly a three-peat.) You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Follow paulmbanks