The end of August can seem to take FOREVER as far as college basketball is concerned. Not only is not much happening, but the season and any real story lines are still more than a month away. With that in mind, the staff here at VUHoops.com put put together a few discussion topics for the upcoming season. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who cares? Enjoy!
Will Villanova pick up another class of 2018 Commitment?
Billy Vinci - Yes. I don't expect any new 2018 names to pop up so there are four real options. Of those four, Jay has seemed to cool on Elijah Weaver and I would be shocked if Cam Reddish doesn't end up at Duke. I feel pretty good about the other two. Syracuse is probably in the lead for Jalen Carey but he I don't think it is close to a done deal. David Duke is thought to be a Providence lean but for some reason I have a feeling that he'll be to Providence what Lonnie Walker (and a number of other local guys) are to Villanova: the local guy who everyone thought was a lock to stay home but does not. I think 'Nova is pretty clearly the leave home option, and I have a good feeling about it.
Brendan Reilly - I just don’t see it in the cards. That’s the bad news. The good news is two fold. First off, this makes it an extremely good looking offer to the guards Villanova is targeting in the 2019 class. This could be Jay’s best shot yet at a one and done with the kind of exposure and playing time the program can provide. The second piece of good news is that I think Collin Gillespie is a true diamond in the rough candidate. If his development path can come anywhere close to Darrun Hilliard, another 3 star candidate that blossomed into an NBA Draft pick, then I think the transition from our current guards to the future will still be a smooth one.
Chris Lane - Yes.
David Cassilo - Yes.
Eugene Rapay - The skeptic in me says no. It just feels like the last call window on recruits is closing, as some of the last few remaining targets seem to lean away from Villanova. While 'Nova might be on the final list for guys like Cam Reddish, David Duke, and Jalen Carey, it seems like they are slipping away or not the leader at the moment.
Outside of Omari Spellman, which new player will have the biggest impact in 2018?
Billy - I'll go with Jermaine Samuels. I think Samuels is being a bit underrated right now. He can score on all three levels, is an excellent athlete, and has all the tools to be a great defender. I think he'll play that 7th/8th man role that Bridges played in 2015-16, which was something Jay really missed last year. It was a big factor in the 2nd round loss last year and having it was a huge factor in the National Championship in 2016. Adding Samuels with Brunson, Booth, Bridges, Paschall, Spellman, DiVincenzo, and Painter is one of the best top eight in the country. Anything 'Nova can get out of Gillespie, DCR, and Delaney is gravy.
Brendan - Jermaine Samuels is the clear answer here. The combination of his natural talent and the minutes opening up at his position give him a clear path to playing time, and playing time is the biggest key to having an impact. However, I think it will be important for fans to temper expectations. Even with playing time, we shouldn’t expect the kind of season Donte DiVincenzo had last year. Unless something goes terribly wrong, Jay shouldn’t have to rely on this year’s freshman the way he did last season. That means Samuels development will likely be slower than the meteoric rise we saw from DiVincenzo, and that’s a good thing.
Chris - Jermaine Samuels.
David - Jermaine Samuels.
Eugene - Jermaine Samuels looks like he'll get immediate playing time and will probably get the most burn on the court out of his fellow Class of 2017 recruits. Samuels, a 6-6 wing, was the highest rated prospect out of the true freshman trio--four stars and No. 52 on ESPN100. He's a great athletic slasher, who's improving his perimeter shooting, and should crack the Wildcat rotation. Some people have even drawn similarities and comparisons to his play style paralleling that of Josh Hart. If so, that should bode well for Villanova, as Hart was already contributing off the bench in his freshman year.
Who will be the most improved player in 2018?
Billy - I'll go with the obvious answer: Donte DiVincenzo. I think we'll see Donte improve in every facet. His 3 point percentage should sit around 40%, his free throw percentage should be around 75-80%, he should average around 11-12 points, and he'll rebound better. Most importantly, (and the reason I picked Donte over Bridges, because Bridges can't improve all that much defensively, I mean, he was Co-Big East D-POY.) I think he'll make a huge leap defensively. He has all the tools to be an above average defender and I think we see it this year.
Brendan - I think this is going to be a huge year for Phil Booth. Of course he’ll be improved over last season where he only played three games, but I think his numbers will be vastly superior to what we saw from him in 2016. I’m predicting that he’ll finish with season averages closer to his hero performance in the Championship Game than the sophomore slump numbers he averaged that year. I’m not the first to say it, but I sure do believe it.
Chris - Eric Paschal.
David - Mikal Bridges.
Eugene - Believe in the comeback! Phil Booth. Believe it or not, we actually haven't even seen Booth's best basketball yet. He obviously sat out for most of last season with his knee problems. In 2015-16, although he was Villanova's top scorer in the National Championship game, his season as a whole was a drop from his solid freshman season. His offensive efficiency rating and 3-point shooting percentage took some harsh falls. With his health problems cleared up, and he is fully cleared to return to all basketball activities, I think we will see him take a leap that surpasses his freshman year.
Who's your dark-horse candidate for a breakout season?
Billy - I don't think Booth is considered a dark-horse so I'll go with Jermaine Samuels for the reasons I said above. I think Samuels is going to surprise people on the defensive end, and if his shot is falling, with his athleticism and finishing ability, he will have a very big year.
Brendan - If I’m right that we won’t be adding anyone else to the class of 2018, then I think it sets the table for Jay to spend some time this season getting Collin Gillespie ready for next year. Wright has shown that he prefers to keep two ball handlers (sometimes three) on the court, especially if they can score. Well Gillespie can score, and there’s a possibility that he’ll be Villanova’s #1 option at PG next season. I think we’re going to see a lot more of the young man this season than many expected.
Chris - Eric Paschall
David - Dylan Painter
Eugene - Eric Paschall. A lot of love for Donte DiVincenzo when it comes to category, and it's deserved, but don't sleep on Paschall. For someone who is still growing as a power forward--after playing shooting guard for nearly all of his life before college--he made tremendous strides as the 2016-17 season unfolded. He went from being a foul troubled liability to a solid undersized defender in the post. His defense of Angel Delgado in the final play of the Big East Tournament Semi Finals was a testament to his development. I think his offense will come around this season, as he grows more accustomed to the stretch big position and his frame.
After Mikal Bridges, who's the team’s best defender?
Billy - This is a tough one for me. It's hard to not say DiVincenzo after what I said above, but I'll go with Eric Paschall. He did a solid job last year and the majority of the time he was on the other team's biggest guy. This year, he'll see more time at the '4' which will help him not only offensively but defensively. He's an excellent shot blocker and he is quick enough to stay in front of the majority of other 4's. Also, I think being able to employ the "death lineup" less often will increase Paschall's effectiveness when it is employed, on both sides of the ball.
Brendan - What’s that, you want more Phil Booth hype? Why sure thing! In 2016, many people forget that it wasn’t just Bridges coming in as a defensive sub off the bench, that was Booth’s primary role as well given his offensive struggles for most of the season. Even with his injury, Booth was a key part of the pressure defense Nova played on ball handlers. Now with more size behind him protecting the paint and his health back, I expect Booth to be one of Nova’s best on ball defenders this season.
Chris - Donte DiVincenzo.
David - Jalen Brunson
Eugene - Donte DiVincenzo. He can crash the boards and plays with great energy at the perimeter. His athleticism and high motor makes him a pest for a opponents to deal with when he's on defense. Of all the returning Big East players, he was third in defensive rating last season, falling behind only Bridges and Providence's Rodney Bullock.
Who do you want with the ball in their hands at the end of the game if the team needs: 1) a three 2) a basket 3) free throws?
Billy - Jalen Brunson, Jalen Brunson, and Jalen Brunson
Brendan - 1) Jalen Brunson. 40% of his made threes last season were unassisted. He can make his own shot on the perimeter and we’ve seen him come through in clutch time.
2) Phil Booth. He may not be the best pure scorer on the team, but he showed in the Championship game that when the team needs a basket, he’ll get you what you need.
3) Jalen Brunson. Ice in those veins. It’s worth noting that I’m not picking Mikal Bridges, despite the fact that he had the team’s best FT% last year. I think there’s a reason, other than the fact we had Josh Hart, that Jay hasn’t called his number when we needed a score. I’m hoping he proves me wrong.
Chris - Jalen Brunson, Jalen Brunson, and get this, Jalen Brunson
David - 1) Brunson 2) Brunson 3) Brunson
Eugene - A three--Jalen Brunson. Brunson has a smooth stroke from deep and is one of the better shooters on the team. Villanova loves its point guards, so let's put the ball in his hands if we need a three for the win.
A basket--Mikal Bridges. Bridges is one of the most efficient players offensively in the conference, as well as nationwide. He's an excellent finisher and scorer inside the arc, sinking a blistering 69.4 percent of two-point shots.
Free throws--Either Bridges or Brunson, probably in that order. These guys are almost automatic from the charity stripe. Bridges converted 91.1 percent of his foul shots last season, while Brunson was right behind with 87.6 percent.
If you have questions for the VUHoops Round Table to discuss, please submit them to VUHoopsRoundTable@gmail.com . We’ll be back next week with more of our answers to your questions!