After seven long months, Villanova was finally back on the court last night in an exhibition game on campus in Jake Nevin Field House. Obviously it was great to see live basketball again, but even better was getting a first look at what we can expect from this year’s Wildcats. Situational plays, lineup chemistry, everything was tested last night. But what are we going to continue to see through March, and what can we just toss out?
It’s always tough to know what we should and shouldn’t take away from exhibition games as they’re often used as live practices. They’re opportunities to try things out at game speed, especially things the team needs work on. Honestly, we shouldn’t be taking anything away from this game. But what the hell, it’s still technically the preseason so let’s breakdown what’s a big deal, little deal, or no deal.
Mikal Bridges started on the bench
Reaction: No Deal. Bridges started the second half and still played 24 minutes. Bridges and Paschall had a class with a test on Wednesday night, and Wright wasn’t sure when they’d be available so he started Gillespie and Spellman. Wright made the correct call here, and that’s all there is to say about that.
Colin Gillespie started the game
Reaction: Little Deal. I don’t think Gillespie is going to start another game this season, but the fact that he got the nod could be telling. We’ve been hearing an overwhelming amount of hype about Gillespie in the weeks leading up to this game, but this was the first inkling we got that it could be real. Again, I don’t think Jay will use a lineup where Phil Booth is your small forward too often, but it still shows a lot of confidence in Gillespie who got the most minutes of any freshman.
Omari Spellman was unstoppable
Reaction: BIGGEST DEAL. I tried to keep telling myself that it was Drexel, it was preseason, and it didn’t count. But I just watched a rookie big man shoot 75% from the floor, hit 2 threes, grab 12 rebounds, and be the only player on the team that didn’t commit a foul. Anyone else booking tickets to San Antonio?
Phil Booth led the team in minutes
Reaction: Big Deal. Just getting to see Booth play 28 minutes in which he was not hindered by any knee pain (that I could tell) was awesome. Sure his shooting percentages were a little down, but he still scored double digits and had 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and just 1 turnover. Welcome back Mr. Booth!
Jalen Brunson led Villanova in scoring
Reaction: No Deal. To the surprise of no one, Jalen Brunson is a very good basketball player. He shot 66% from the floor, 75% from beyond the arc, and 100% from the free throw line. Add in a team high 6 assists and it’s clear that someone’s going to have to have one hell of a season if they want to wrestle the Big East POY away from Villanova’s captain.
Eric Paschall was second in scoring and rebounding
Reaction: Big Deal. Paschall was one of the guys Villanova needed to take step forward if they were going to continue playing at an elite level. So far, so good. He dominated on the interior on both ends of the court, and looked especially great when playing alongside Spellman. The three pointer is still eluding him as he went 0 for 2, but I’ll take 15 points and 9 rebounds any day of the week.
All three freshman played before Painter
Reaction: No Deal. Dylan Painter didn’t see the court until the second half, but that likely had more to do with his new teammates than his own play. According to VUHoops own Dania Haughton, Jay Wright said he already knew what the returning players could do and wanted to get a look at the new guys. Painter was never expected to be one of the first guys off the bench, and he still played more minutes than Cosby-Roundtree. This doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.
Villanova committed 20 fouls
Reaction: Little Deal. Last season Nova averaged 14.3 fouls per game. Last night, all but one of the Wildcats got a foul, and four players finished with at least three. Sure, it’s early and Jay probably told them to go out and play aggressive, so this isn’t a big deal. But something to keep an eye on is that the four players with 3 or more fouls (DiVincenzo, Brunson, Bridges, Gillespie) were all perimeter defenders. Sure, Drexel shot just 24% from deep, but they’re Drexel. Perimeter defense could be one of the few areas that Villanova doesn’t excel this season.
Tim Delaney did not play
Reaction: No Deal. I should clarify: It’s no deal for Villanova, but it’s a big deal for Delaney. A lot of people evaluated Villanova coming into this season without factoring Delaney into it. The fact that he couldn’t get any playing time tonight means there’s a good chance he won’t be a part of the rotation this season. While that probably doesn’t effect Nova’s wins and losses, it really sucks for a guy that’s been working to get back on the court for so long.
Eight Wildcats had 15+ minutes
Reaction: Big Deal. One of the biggest problems facing the Wildcats last season was their depth. Because they were using only a seven man rotation, four players averaged 29+ minutes for the season. Tonight, no player had more than 28 minutes. Six players recorded at least 20 minutes, while two more had at least 15. Painter and DCR added 9 and 8 minutes respectively to make this a likely 8 man rotation with two guys that can be brought in for breathers and foul trouble.
Villanova assisted on 75% of their field goals
Reaction: Little Deal. Eight of the ten Wildcats who played last night had at least one assist, and the starting combo of Brunson and Booth combined for ten. One game does not a sample size make, but considering that last year’s team only assisted on 52% of their field goals, this is a really positive first step.