The two months following Villanova's National Championship have been a joy. It's been a steady stream of articles lauding the Wildcats' effort, and a healthy dose of talking heads proclaiming that the team has the best chance at a repeat since the Florida Gators ten years ago.
There's good reason for that. Kris Jenkins had a brief flirtation with the NBA Draft process, but Big Smoove will be back. As will Josh Hart, who dragged things out a lot longer and seemed genuinely torn on the decision before announcing his return. And though it would be silly to underestimate the difficulty Jay Wright will have replacing Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, he brings back 70% of his scoring, including the aforementioned top two offensive options.
With the way the Wildcats have been rolling, that's enough to believe they'll be right back at the top next season. It's why they're a consensus Top 5 team amongst the media. But reading the #analysis and listening to a few podcasts, the focus is solely on what is coming back - not necessarily what's coming in.
That ignorance can be forgiven. Villanova isn't Kentucky or Duke. Because his program rarely suffers early attrition, Wright rarely brings in large classes. And he's not this year either. But injuries and transfers will essentially make the new crop of available players a five-man class. That's a lot of fresh help - and very similar to what the Fighting Calipari's and K's are bringing in.
Here's what to expect from the fresh faces.
The signing of Omari Spellman made it two straight classes with a 5-star recruit for Wright. The graduation of Ochefu leaves a starting spot up for grabs and Spellman and Darryl Reynolds would appear to be in a dogfight for it heading into summer camp. Spellman's offensive contributions - he can score both inside and out making him a great fit for the offense - may outweigh his defensive presence early on, and a lot will depend on his physical conditioning. An impact similar to Jalen Brunson's maiden campaign seems to be a fair expectation.
Shout out to CBS' Matt Norlander for name-dropping Eric Paschall on their podcast. The Fordham transfer has gotten plenty of hype in his season on the practice unit inside 'Nova Nation, but nary a mention of just how much potential he has outside of it. He's a freak athlete who has already proven a capable scorer in his A-10 Rookie of the Year season (though his efficiency will need to improve). The wing is a crowded place at 'Nova, but Paschall's size allows him the flexibility to handle some work inside. He's a guy who has star potential.
Donte DiVincenzo caught a bad break when he suffered a foot injury early in the season. While he likely could have come back and played a role, it looks a smart decision to redshirt him and save the eligibility. He'll enter the season as the third guard behind Brunson and Phil Booth, but he offers a different skillset and has already shown off his athleticism. How well he can acclimate himself in the offense will determine his season - but he's already flashed the ability to hit the glass and defend well in the half-court. The upside is there.
Dylan Painter has been on an upward swing ever since last summer and his play at the Donofrio Classic this spring opened eyes. Once the leading candidate for a redshirt on a very full roster, Painter now may be hard to keep off the court - especially with the unknown status of Tim Delaney (more on that below). Painter is your prototypical 5 man, and should be a better fit to replace Ochefu's defensive presence early on if he can find the minutes.
You can't help but feel awful for Tim Delaney, who went through two separate hip surgeries last season that not only made his freshmen year a wash, but may put his career in jeopardy. Not a lot has been said about when he'll be back in game shape, or how much he'll be able to contribute next season and beyond. Spike Albrecht appears to be in line to contribute at Purdue after previously ending his career following a similar procedure, so there's hope yet. Delaney's offensive pick-and-pop skillset would be a good fit in the offense, so here's hoping he gets back to 100% and can don the blue and white.