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2017 Villanova Basketball Preview: Jalen Brunson

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Who is ready for an encore?

Timothy T. Ludwig - USA Today Sports

Hometown: Lincolnshire, Illinois

High School: Adlai Stevenson (Lincolnshire, Illinois)

Height: 6’3

Weight: 190

It feels like I am late to the game with this preview and that’s not just because I thought it was due tomorrow. It's because it seems like everything that can be written about Jalen Brunson's upcoming season has already been written. Brunson, recently named Big East Pre-Season Player of the Year, has been one of the off-season's biggest storylines.

Brunson enters his junior year, solidly atop the Bob Cousy watchlist, as the heir apparent to Josh Hart after arguably eclipsing him as Villanova's MVP a year ago.

Brunson's sophomore campaign surpassed our expectations. Brunson averaged 14.7 points per game shooting 54% from the field and 38% from downtown. As a distributor, he averaged 4 assists per game with just over 4 turnovers per 100 possessions. While the spotlight shone on Josh Hart, Brunson was quietly nipping at his heels in nearly every offensive category and was arguably the true MVP of the Wildcats' season. So what's on tap for the encore?

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Villanova Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the talk surrounded Brunson's role as the primary ballhander following the graduation of Ryan Arcidiacono. This year, Brunson will be expected to take on the role of the go-to scorer with the graduation of Josh Hart. With (finger, toes, and eyes crossed) the return of Phil Booth, Brunson should have a little more flexibility to play off the ball if necessary, something he did not have the luxury of doing last year with the Wildcats down a ballhandler. While Donte DiVincenzo filled in where necessary, the return of Booth (and spot minutes from Gillespie) should give Jay Wright some options in creating scoring opportunities for Brunson and Co., specifically Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman.

Jay Wright, in speaking with The Inquirer, noted that Brunson is “a natural scorer," and that "he’ll be counted on to do that a little bit more" this year. Jay also predicted that we will see the "the true Jalen Brunson this year.” All of ‘Nova Nation was thereafter quoted as saying “we can't ******* wait.”

But, most importantly, I hope Brunson continues to openly troll Josh Hart as he navigates NBA stardom.

Best Case Scenario

Brunson had such an incredible season last year that the mind struggles to envision how he could top it. However, as Jay's comments reflect, the Wildcats have a different look this year on offense. With second and third ballhandlers, plus a true big man in the middle, the team has options it has not had in prior seasons. The best case scenario here is obvious. Brunson continues his play as an elite floor general but has the freedom to become a dynamic scorer off the ball. His expanded role impresses the scouts and he goes late in the first round in the 2018 NBA draft. I then cry myself to sleep.

Worst Case Scenario

The worst case scenario for Jalen Brunson is that he only remains the best point guard in college basketball. He's such an incredible talent that even if he makes zero strides this year and gets lost in the offense, he still leads Villanova to a 30+ win season. He's too good and too solid. If I allow my brain to wander into a dark place, I can envision a situation where 'Nova's offense stalls due to having too many options. 'Nova's dreaded burn offense was theoretically designed to allow players to create their own shot, something nearly every player on this roster is capable of doing. That being said, we've had concerns about Bridges' aggressiveness, Booth's knee, etc. that could potentially impact the effectiveness of such an offense if Plan B, C, and D aren't in place. I don't see it happening but VUhoops pays me the big bucks to scare you. Also, it's Halloween. ooOOOooOOOo.


Wisdom of the Crowds

We are pleased to bring back our Wisdom of Crowds experiment for the 2017-2018 season. In this series, we ask that you consider the points covered in our player preview to supplement your own personal insights and instincts to predict the points per game each scholarship player on the roster we score in the upcoming season.

Poll

How many points per game will Jalen Brunson score this season?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    14.0-15.0
    (46 votes)
  • 40%
    15.1-16.9
    (217 votes)
  • 39%
    17.0-18.9
    (214 votes)
  • 11%
    19.00+
    (64 votes)
541 votes total Vote Now