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What We Learned From The Villanova Basketball Blue/White Scrimmage

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Who wants more buzzer beaters!?!?

Summer Jam

Despite the cold, rainy weather Saturday morning, Nova Nation had a great showing to get one last look at the Cats before things really get rolling in November. The Blue/White scrimmage was a lot of fun for both the players and the fans and included a blow out, a buzzer beater, and double overtime. So let’s do a quick recap and then dive into player by player analysis:

Game 1: White Wins 35-17

Team Blue: Brunson, Hart, Bridges, Spellman, Reynolds

Team White: Booth, DiVincenzo, Paschall, Jenkins, Painter/Delaney

My MVP: Donte DiVincenzo

Game Notes:

  • Jay announced before the game that Painter was coming off strep throat and a week without practicing, so he and Delaney were the only players subbing in and out for each other.
  • As crazy as it is to say with Hart and Bridges on Team Blue, Team White was by far the more athletic team. No shocker this was a blowout, Team Blue just couldn’t keep up with the Booth/DiVincenzo/Paschall combo. Team Blue tried to slow them with the press, but Team White broke it every time... easily.
  • Team Blue also didn’t do much passing in the first game. Too many guys trying to create for themselves rather than their teammates lead to a lot of contested shots. It got better after the coaches chewed them out during the first time out, but certainly contributed to the slow start.
  • DiVincenzo went off in this one. Not only was he shooting well from outside, he showed off much improved ball handling skills. He was also very aggressive on defense and on the boards.

Game 2: White Wins 34-33

Team Blue: Booth, Hart, Paschall, Spellman, Reynolds

Team White: Brunson, DiVincenzo, Bridges, Jenkins, Painter/Delaney

My MVP: Jalen Brunson

Game Notes:

  • Traded Booth and Paschall for Brunson and Bridges, made for a much more competitive contest. A lot better spacing for both teams, and although there were a few more forced 3’s than you’d like, the effort and balance was there.
  • Team White got a huge lead in this one before Team Blue, lead by Booth, made a major comeback to get it close in the last 6 minutes. With 22 seconds left in the game and trailing by 1, Josh Hart gave his team a chance.
  • But as we learned last year, a Villanova team with the ball in their hands at the end of the game can make miracles happen. This time it was Jalen Brunson’s turn.

Game 3: Blue Wins 86-83 in 2OT

Team Blue: Booth, Hart, Paschall, Spellman, Reynolds

Team White: Brunson, DiVincenzo, Bridges, Jenkins, Painter/Delaney

My MVP: Phil Booth

Game Notes:

  • The final score on this one is deceiving, as Jay kept the teams the same but started both scores at 60, so really this one was 26-23. Also, while both of the previous games were 15 minutes each, this one was scheduled for just 4 minutes. But of course they played to a tie, and went to a 4 minute overtime and a 2 minute second overtime.
  • This was by far the most exciting of the three games, and everyone was contributing on both sides. As we got into the last minute of the first OT, with Team White down by one, Kris Jenkins did what Kris Jenkins does.
  • On the other end, Phil Booth would get fouled by Jalen Brunson while shooting a three. He went 2 of 3 from the line to tie it up at 79 a piece. Brunson would have a chance to redeem himself and be the hero again, but neither he nor DiVincenzo could make the final shot.
  • In the final OT, it was all Team Blue. Booth and Paschall got hot, buckets didn’t fall for White team, and that was all she wrote.
  • A final note, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree was court-side during the games with a friend, and got a lot of face time with coaches Wright and Dunleavy.

Player Profiles

Josh Hart: Hart got off to a slow start with DiVincenzo on him, but started to warm up in the second game. Of the three captains, he’s going to be the one that leads more by his play on the court than his words off it. He showed that he can still score from anywhere and can hit the clutch shot at the end of a game. He also was able to cool down DiVincenzo who came out scorching hot in the first game. What else is there to say, he’s Villanova’s best player and it’s not close.

Kris Jenkins: For those of you who are fans of the patented Jenkins head fake, it’s already in mid-season form. While neither of Nova’s biggest stars from last season “went off” in any of the games, they did plenty to assure you that they still got it. It should also be noted that he held his own defensively against Spellman and Reynolds in all three games. Big Smoove will be ready to go come November.

Darryl Reynolds: Reynolds played against the Painter/Delaney combo all day, and you can tell that he was playing equal parts competitor and teacher. He would often be seen giving pointers between whistles before introducing them to Big East basketball on the court. He was aggressive on the boards on both ends, including a put back dunk. He’s still not finishing through contact as often as you’d like, but he made up for it with better interior footwork and making smart cuts to get wide open lay-ups. The offense isn’t going to run through him like it did Ochefu, but he’s still going to be an asset in the paint on both ends.

Phil Booth: If the Championship game was Booth’s coming out party, this was the after party. He’s clearly a step quicker than he was with last season’s injury, and he can get up for rebounds with the big guys too. He can create a perimeter or mid-range shot for himself just as easily as he can slash to the basket. On defense, that additional step improves his ability to create turnovers, but he needs to watch out for the ticky-tack fouls that might result. He’s really come into his own as a combo guard, and should easily see an uptick in scoring this season.

Jalen Brunson: Brunson sacrificed a lot for the team last season, mainly minutes and stats. That won’t be a problem now that he’s Jay’s guy at the point, and wow does he make things happen out there. Whether it’s finding cutters or creating his own shot, he’s a lot of fun to watch on offense. Oh, and get used to hearing the phrase “Brunson to Hart!” He’s clearly improved and more confident on defense as well, but just like Arch he’s susceptible to the blow by from quicker guards. Luckily the defense is designed to swallow up penetration, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. He’ll be one to watch for Most Improved Player this season.

Mikal Bridges: Bridges might not be as tall as you’d expect, but that wing span is just massive. Not only is it super disruptive in the passing lanes, it’s perfect for Nova’s 1-2-2 press. Bridges is still a superstar on defense, and his offense is coming along nicely. He showed an improve ability to drive to the basket and better shot selection from the perimeter. It’s going to be a toss up when it comes to who’s off the bench first between him and Paschall, but when Jay needs a defensive stopper for the 1-4 position, Bridges is his guy.

Eric Paschall: I know I’ve been raving about this guy for over a year now, but if I had to pick an MVP of the entire day, it was Eric Paschall. He’s a linebacker that can play 1-5 if needed. He was going toe to toe with Hart for rebounds, he played great D on both the guards and the forwards, and he’s got great timing on his shot block. And we haven’t even gotten to his offense! He can create his own shot outside or in the paint, he’s a plus passer down low, and when he was playing the power forward position in the paint, the team ran the offense through him. This guy is going to turn a lot of heads this year, and he pairs up nicely as the versatile offensive specialist to Bridges versatile defensive specialist.

Donte DiVincenzo: Easily the most improved since last season so far was Villanova’s next great Italian guard with an impossible to spell last name. For those of you (myself included) that were worried about who would be Jay’s 3rd ball handler in case of injury or foul trouble, Donte’s your guy. But a sweet handle isn’t all he picked up in the off season. He’s got a great touch from the outside and he can still track down rebounds like a hawk. He’s going to be one of the grittier players on the team, as he showed by wrestling a loose ball away from Brunson and then quickly found Jenkins across the court for an open three. He may not be the first guy off the bench this season, but he’s going to see a fair share of minutes in the back-court.

Tim Delaney: The big man was in and out of this one with fellow freshman Dylan Painter. As can be expected, Delaney is still getting into playing shape while recovering from his surgeries. While he doesn’t look like he added any weight, his conditioning was clearly behind the rest of the team. He showed that he can stretch the court from the 4 position, and has the ability to hit from outside. But in the end, Tim will probably be the last man off the bench for Villanova’s front court this season.

Dylan Painter: Jay noted before the games that Painter was coming off strep throat and a week off from practice, so he asked us not to judge him too harshly. But the freshman big looked pretty good as he split time with Delaney and started all three games. Painter showed some skill around the rim, especially on the offensive glass. He has no reservations when it comes to attacking the boards, but it’s clear he still needs to hit the weights some more. He’ll be the primary backup at the 5 spot, unless Jay goes small ball with Paschall like they did in Spain.

Omari Spellman: The big man was the first player on the court for warm ups, practicing his mid-range jumper. To me, that’s indicative of a kid that has taken an unfortunate situation and decided to make the most of it by doing everything he can to be that much better for next season. He had a quiet day offensively, although he did have some moments that remind you just how talented he is. He finished well through contact and was active on the offensive glass. He was in a mis-match with Jenkins for most of the day, and it was clear that he needs some work on his perimeter defense. All in all, he’s going to be an invaluable asset in practice, much like Paschall was last season, and he should come out that much better for next year’s squad.