The Bethlehem, PA native broke out as a sophomore in 2012-13, averaging 11.4 points per game after scoring just 4.8 per game as a freshman. With such a steep upward trend last season, expectations were that the lefthanded guard would continue to see growth as a junior. After leading the team in steals as a sophomore, he was expected to maintain a strong defensive presence for the Wildcats as one of their leaders this season.
Here's how Darrun Hilliard responded:
What was expected
Hilliard had a high-bar to reach to max out his expectations this season. He wasn't quite the top choice in Villanova's offensive scheme as a sophomore, but he could have developed that way as a junior. He also could've fallen victim to his own streaky shooting performances and seen a body of work marred by a stretch or two of bad games.
Best Case Scenario: While again tripling his production may prove to be too much, Hilliard becomes the go-to-guy for Villanova on the offensive end, and finishes the season leading the team in points per game. His consistency finally catches up to his talent level and he's relied upon heavily by his teammates.
Worst Case Scenario: The streakiness continues with regards to his perimeter shooting, and his progression seemingly halts during a frustrating junior season. He's still a productive player by the stat sheet, but his year feels too similar to the 2012 season.
Hilliard finished the season a close second in scoring to surging-senior James Bell. He wasn't the go-to scorer on a team that used multiple options, but he improved upon his production from a year ago and demonstrated that his emergence a year prior was not a fluke.
Hilliard's Junior campaign resulted in a disappointing Big East Honorable Mention, along with teammate Ryan Arcidiacono, a testament to how far under-the-radar he flew this season.
Vote from Wisdom of Crowds
In Wisdom of Crowds, readers cast their votes on how many points Hilliard would average this season. Approximately 80% of you predicted him to score between 12.2 and 15.4 points per game, with the majority (at 24%) saying 13.8 PPG.
At 14.3 PPG, Hilliard did about 0.5 points better than the largest group of voters predicted and was on the high-end of that 80% band. The 14% of readers who predicted a 14.6 point per game output were the closest to the actual performance.
Hilliard saw a slight decline in minutes (by 0.8 per game) and in steals (by 0.3 per game) as well as an uptick in turnovers (from 1.9 to 2.2 per contest) as a junior. He improved notably in practically every other major statistical category, however, showing a good overall improvement.
Hilliard's 26 points against Marquette at the Wells Fargo Center stand out just a bit more than his other top performances this season. He connected on almost 63% of his shots from distance to help the Wildcats overwhelm the Golden Eagles. If that wasn't enough, he also managed to add four assists and three rebounds to his statistical bounty in that game.
The Battle 4 Atlantis match-up with Iowa wasn't pretty for Hilliard, but his worst game was probably the 'Cats trip to the Carrier Dome on December 28th. There, he shot a miserable 14.3% from the field, launching six of his seven field goal attempts from beyond the arc, connecting on just one shot and 2-of-4 from the free-throw line. He did contribute six assists in that effort, but turned the ball over 4 times as well.
A - Villanova fans were surprised when Hilliard seemingly came from nowhere to become a factor as a sophomore. This season he continued his growth on both sides of the ball. He became the 'Cat's second-best scorer without really stealing much spotlight from his teammates. Hilliard isn't about flash and dazzle, but instead brings a consistent and experienced presence to the Villanova hardwood. As a senior in 2014-15, Hilliard will be called upon to do more, and lead his teammates during the season.