There are a lot of players on the Villanova Wildcats that "did everything". But no one else did everything at such a high level like Josh Hart did. It wasn't just that he was the best player on the court, he was the best player on each end of the court. Whther he was spinning in the paint, stepping back for a three, or skying for a rebound, one thing was always true. Josh Hart wanted it more than you. In his Junior year, Hart was able to harness that drive into the greatest season of his Villanova career. And possibly his last.
What We Expected
When Darrun Hilliard graduated at the end of last season, the Wildcats were in need of someone to step up as the team's go to scorer. Naturally, they turned to the reigning Big East 6th Man of the Year and Big East Tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Josh Hart. He had truly impressed as a spark off the bench that could score from anywhere, defend any position, and rebound better than any guard in the country. While it was asking a lot for him to take on such a big portion of the offense in his first year as a starter, most fans were confident that his sophomore year proved he was more than ready for the challenge.
Vote From Wisdom Of The Crowds
The readers of VUHoops predicted that Hart would successfully take over the leading scorer role at 13.1PPG. It wasn't quite the 14.3 points that Hilliard had lead the team with the previous season, but you can't expect a guy to just come in and completely dominate... right?
BOOM! Hart put up the best PPG number (15.5) since Maalik Wayns in 2012 (17.6). Hart lead the team in scoring and was second in minutes, rebounds, and steals. He scored in double digits in 37 of his 40 games, along with recording 8 double-doubles (he came up 1 rebound shy in 4 more games). He had per game career highs in minutes, field goals, 3pointers made, free throws, FT%, rebounds, assists, steals, and points. It was an amazing season for Hart, and I think I can speak for everyone who participated in Wisdom of the Crowds when I say I'm glad we got this one wrong!
It's hard to pick just one "best" game for Hart in a season in which KenPom.com named him Villanova's MVP in 11 different games. His 23 points against Oklahoma in the Final Four were great, as was perfect performance against Xavier where he went 6 for 6 from the field and 2 for 2 from the line. But his best game of the season was his double-double bounce back performance against Butler in February. He hadn't scored in double digits in the previous 2 games, the first 2 all season. Hart bounced back on offense with a team high 22 points on 50% shooting, along with 2 assists and two offensive rebounds. On defense, Hart again lead the way with 10 defensive rebounds, a block, and a steal. He did all of this while only recording 1 foul in 36 minutes.
Hart's worst game of the season came 3 nights before against Big 5 rival Temple. Despite playing 33 minutes, Hart managed just 4 points on 2 for 9 shooting, going 0 for 3 from beyond the arc. He also missed his lone free throw attempt. Even his rebounding was down, with just 5 (1 offensive) on the night. He was still able to play strong defense on the perimeter while teammate Jalen Brunson stepped up on offense, but it just wasn't Hart's night to shine.
On a team with a lot of youth that needed to grow throughout the season, it was often Hart that carried the team through the early going. That drive and determination along with outstanding scoring and rebounding, made him a finalist for the Wooden Player of the Year award. While he didn't claim that prize, I think he'll settle for National Champion.
Now all eyes are on Hart as he goes through the NBA evaluation process and makes a decision on whether or not to enter the draft. As a fan of Villanova, I would love to see one more season with our leading scorer. But as a fan of Josh Hart, I want him to do what's best for him. He's already done everything you can at the college level, and he's brought a Championship to Villanova fans that will last us our entire lifetimes. No matter his decision, Hart will be supported by the Nova Nation, and he'll be a Wildcat for life.
P.S. ~ ONE MORE YEAR! ONE MORE YEAR! ONE MORE YEAR!