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A First Look At The 2017-2018 Villanova Basketball Season

New faces, new places, same ‘Attitude’.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know about you, but I find myself in an odd quagmire of thoughts and feelings this week. Between the events of this past weekend, the debates on what they mean, and a swelling of emotions for this senior class, it’s difficult to concentrate on any one thing. So instead, I’m going to hit the pause button, set it all aside for a moment, and take a look eight months down the road.

For everything that we’re unsure of for next year, there’s plenty that we know already. Despite losing possibly the greatest winners in Villanova history, the Big East Champs are still returning a great core. There’s a new inbound class that should make an immediate impact (Omari Is FREE!), and the team is about to embark on the Pavilion Renovation tour, coming to the Northeast this Fall! Yes, there are some question marks hanging out there, but from what we know already, it should be another great season for Villanova Basketball.

The Roster

For the 3rd time in the Jay Wright era, and first time since 2012, Villanova is heading into a season without any senior scholarship players on their roster. Yes, that year the Wildcats went just 13-19, missed the NCAA tournament and had a noticeable lack of leadership and unity. But unlike that abysmal season, this team will still have a TON of experience:

Villanova Teams Without Seniors Under Wright

Season # of Players # of 1st Years Collective Years XP
Season # of Players # of 1st Years Collective Years XP
2007-08 12 5 11
2011-12 12 5 12
2017-18 13 3 19

Unlike the last two times Wright was without senior leadership, there will be far fewer “new” faces next season. Three members of the junior class, Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges, and Eric Paschall, will be academic seniors thanks to previous redshirt seasons. The fourth, Jalen Brunson, has started every game of his first two seasons and played in 14 post-season games. Villanova also returns six players that were with the team for its Championship run in 2016 (DiVincenzo, Delaney, and Paschall were red-shirts), and that experience is invaluable.

The junior class, along with RS sophomore Donte DiVincenzo, will be asked to take over the leadership of the exiting senior class. As for who they’ll be leading, the young front-court of Omari Spellman, Dylan Painter, and Tim Delaney will be joined by incoming freshman Jermaine Samuels, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and Collin Gillespie. Walk-ons Tom Leibig and Matt Kennedy, both seniors next year, will round out the roster.

The Schedule

We’ve actually had a number of next year’s games confirmed already, including Gonzaga, UConn, Hofstra, and the Battle for Atlantis. There’s also an unconfirmed re-match with Lafayette in the Lehigh Valley. That would make sense as all of these games will be on the road or at neutral sites due to the Pavilion reconstruction. Add them to the Big 5 and Big East schedules, and all but two possible games are accounted for:

2017-18 Possible Schedule

Opponent Location Conference
Opponent Location Conference
Gonzaga Neutral (MSG) WCC
Battle for Atlantis Neutral (Bahamas) Multiple
Hofstra Away CAA
Lafayette Away Patriot
La Salle Home A-10
Penn Home Ivy
St. Joe's Away A-10
Temple Away AAC
Butler H/A Big East
Creighton H/A Big East
DePaul H/A Big East
Georgetown H/A Big East
Marquette H/A Big East
Providence H/A Big East
Seton Hall H/A Big East
St. John's H/A Big East
Xavier H/A Big East

Here are some additional notes to consider with these games:

  • The Gonzaga game will be a part of the Jimmy V Classic that also features Syracuse and UConn.
  • The UConn game will be the start of a home-and-home series with the Huskies traveling to Philadelphia the following year.
  • The Battle for Atlantis will feature Villanova, Arizona, Purdue, SMU, NC State, Tennessee, Western Kentucky, and Northern Iowa. The first four all made the NCAA tournament this season and won their conference’s regular season or tournament. Villanova and SMU won both.
  • The game against Lafayette could take place at the PPL center in Allentown where Villanova played Lehigh in 2015. This is still rumored and has yet to be confirmed, although Fran O’Hanlon’s comments earlier this season seem to imply this is the plan.
  • While Villanova is scheduled to host LaSalle and Penn this season, these two games would be candidates to be played at the Palestra if the Wells Fargo Center is not available.

The Questions

Between now and November, there are a number of questions that will need answers as the season outlook starts to take shape. Here are a few of the most frequently asked:

How will this season’s injuries effect next year’s outlook?

There will be two major injury related questions over the summer that will need to be resolved before other roster moves are made. First, will Phil Booth be healthy heading into next season. We’re currently in the same spot we were a year ago. Booth’s knee is inflamed and may (or may not) require off-season surgery. Either way, he’ll be on the mend for the next several months as he works toward being ready to go to start the season.

Meanwhile, Tim Delaney has now missed two seasons with hip surgeries. This doesn’t just put next year into question, but his entire basketball future. Frankly, there’s far too much I don’t know about his medical or basketball status to draw any kind of conclusion here, other than to say that many surgeries on a guy that big and that young isn’t a good thing. At this point, all we can do is wish Tim a full and speedy recovery.

Could any Wildcats leave early for the NBA?

Jay Wright has done an excellent job of advising his players on what the right move for them is. From both professional and personal opinions, the general consensus seems to be that players shouldn’t leave early for the NBA without being a lock for the first round of the draft. The two players currently receiving at least some chatter are Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if they take a similar path that Hart did his Junior year, testing the waters and getting the opportunity to hear directly from NBA scouts where they need to improve.

While some would argue that Brunson was even more pivotal to the team’s success this year than Josh Hart, it’s unlikely that he’ll leave early. Not only will he be in a great situation as the undisputed team leader next season, he’ll be surrounded by weapons to showcase his abilities at the next level. And for as good as he is, this year’s point guard class is absolutely loaded. While he could wow scouts this off-season and move his stock up, I think it’s more likely that he returns to Villanova next season.

Mikal Bridges is the most likely to leave early. While he has the physical tools to play at the next level and saw a big jump in his efficiency this season, there’s still enough red flags that would keep him out of this year’s first round. Even outside the PG position, this is a very talented draft class, and I think it’s more likely that Bridges would leave after next season than take his chances now. Again, Villanova is still going to be very talented next year and his role in the offense should be even bigger after a year starting.

Will anyone redshirt next season?

The short answer: Probably. But as for who that might be depends on a lot of factors. First off, you can take any of the four major contributors from this season off the list. I also think that Omari Spellman and incoming Jermaine Samuels won’t be considered. Let’s also think happy thoughts and assume that Booth and Delaney will come into the season at full health. That leaves three possible candidates.

First up is freshman Collin Gillespie. The two star, 6’2” guard flat out lit up the Philadelphia Catholic League this past year, becoming the POY and leading his team to the league Championship. But before this season, Gillespie wasn’t even on the DI map. Assuming health, he’ll be trying to get time with Brunson, Booth, DiVincenzo, Bridges, and Samuels, so it’s not crazy to think about giving him some time to get up to speed. Then again, as they have in the past, injuries could change all of that.

Then there’s freshman forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, also from the Philadelphia Catholic League. The 6’8” forward would also find himself working for time in the front court with Spellman, Paschall, Bridges, Samuels, Painter, and Delaney. It usually takes big men a little longer to develop at the college level, so a year to adjust could be very beneficial. However, just like last year, you never know what will happen in the off-season.

Lastly is an odd choice, but one that could make sense. Dylan Painter was supposed to redshirt this past year before injuries to Tim Delaney and NCAA shenanigans with Omari Spellman left the team short handed in the front court. In an interview this season, Jay Wright mentioned that Painter was working toward a five year engineering degree at Nova, and so giving the big man a redshirt season to match his academics and improve his game wouldn’t be unreasonable. But now that he’s seen more court time than any Villanova player over 6’7”, does it make sense to sit a guy with that kind of experience?

The good news is that there’s plenty of time now for these questions to be answered as we wait for Villanova to return to the court. In the meantime, we can all get over last weekend, appreciate what may very well be the “Golden Era” of Villanova Basketball, and enjoy the last few months we have left with Darryl Reynolds, Kris Jenkins, and Josh Hart.