Villanova has been one of the most successful programs in college basketball for the last five years. The Wildcats have won two of the last three National titles and have not lost back to back games in five years. Despite the success, the champs find themselves in an unusual position- and it might take some adjusting.
What Could the Upcoming Season Hold for Villanova?
Four Key Players Leave for the NBA
Villanova prides themselves on recruiting talented players who stick around for four years, rather than the more traditional “one and done” style players. This year, they lost four key players to the NBA draft.
It was no surprise that Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson declared for the draft after last season. Brunson won multiple Big East honors and was elected as the Naismith Player of the Year thanks to his play. The junior guard averaged 18.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Brunson was selected in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks.
From the beginning of the season, Bridges was looked at as a lottery pick. He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, then later traded to the Phoenix Suns. Losing Bridges and Brunson as juniors were hard enough for the Wildcats, but in the weeks leading up to the draft, they had more important things to worry about.
While Brunson and Bridges declared early, Villanova patiently waited on decisions from sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo and freshman center Omari Spellman. Spellman’s decision came as somewhat of a surprise, but the sharp-shooting center played his way into the first round at the NBA combine. He was selected with the last pick of the first round by the Atlanta Hawks.
DiVincenzo was less of a surprise after the National title game. The red-shirt sophomore provided a spark for Villanova off the bench and poured in 31 points. He displayed his ability to shoot from deep, defend, and handle the ball. What really opened the eyes of scouts was his elite athleticism. This one hurt Villanova the most because DiVincenzo was expected to start this upcoming season and become a star. Instead, he will find himself on the Milwaukee Buck’s roster.
New Guys Will Need to Step Up
While Villanova lost four key players, they will also be returning multiple players with experience. Phil Booth has been a part of two National Championship teams and will return for his final season. Booth has battled with injury problems but it is extremely important that he stays healthy this season if Villanova wants to contend for a third title in four years.
Eric Paschall tested the waters of the NBA but decided to return to school for his senior season. Paschall is a stretch four that can shoot from the outside and rebound with the best of them. He uses his impressive vertical for rebounds and put-back dunks. Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels will also be looked upon to step up as sophomores.
The recruiting class for Villanova is strong and there will be three or four freshmen who will be looked at to be rotation players. The Wildcats are a preseason top-10 squad and will need to work hard to live up to their name. The key to any team is to remain healthy, but for Villanova, it will depend on the ability of new players to step up and contribute.
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