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Villanova Basketball 2018 Season Recap: Eric Paschall

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Villanova’s Most Improved Player is ready for another big leap.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Villanova vs Texas Tech Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Last week Eric Paschall was officially named Villanova Basketball’s Most Improved Player for the 2018 season. Simply put, he may be the most fitting recipient in the history of the award. Not only was he a key part of the National Championship run, he’s set to return for his final season as one of the leaders of Villanova’s title defense.

Eric Paschall Career Stats: 2018

Season School G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Season School G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2014-15 Fordham 27 27 31.2 5.6 13.3 0.419 3.9 8 0.488 1.7 5.3 0.315 3.1 4 0.794 1.7 3.8 5.5 1 0.8 0.4 2.8 2 15.9
2016-17 Villanova 36 8 21.7 2.8 5.4 0.513 2.3 3.5 0.638 0.5 1.9 0.279 1.1 1.6 0.695 1.4 2.4 3.8 0.6 0.5 0.5 1.2 2.5 7.2
2017-18 Villanova 38 38 29.8 3.8 7.1 0.533 2.8 4.4 0.639 0.9 2.7 0.356 2.1 2.5 0.813 1.8 3.4 5.3 2.2 0.9 0.6 1.7 2.4 10.6
Career Overall 101 73 27.3 3.9 8.1 0.479 2.9 5.1 0.575 1 3.1 0.321 2 2.6 0.779 1.6 3.2 4.8 1.3 0.7 0.5 1.8 2.3 10.8

The stat line alone doesn’t tell the story of Paschall’s transition from below average to exceptional shooter this season. Sure, his 53% FG shooting is great but the 35.6% from deep is just above average.

Now what if I told you that for the first third of the season, Paschall shot 1 for 25 (4%) from deep. After that thirteen game stretch, Villanova’s power forward went 35 for 76 (46%) for the rest of the season. Unbelievable!

That effort culminated in a 24 point outburst against Kansas in the Final Four. In a game during which Villanova broke the record for most made threes in a Final Four, Paschall led the team with 4 threes on 80% shooting from deep. If that turnaround alone doesn’t earn you Most Improved Player, I don’t know what does.

But an improved deep threat wasn’t his only contribution. Paschall was a beast at the basket, leading all starters in 2P% and FG% on the season. Even when teams tried to hack him as he muscled his way to the rim, he finished as the second most accurate free throw shooter on the team behind Mikal Bridges. He also finished second in offensive rebounds and third in blocks on the season.

The Breakdown

Following a season in which Paschall was forced to play at the center position for the Wildcats, he was able to return to his more natural position as a wing/forward with the addition of Omari Spellman to the lineup. The two of them created huge problems for opposing front courts throughout the year. Both had the physical presence and strength to bang down low on both ends of the court coupled with the agility and deep threat to score from outside or take their man off the dribble. There literally wasn’t any other front court in college basketball that could match Villanova’s, and that’s a big reason why they won a National Championship.

While Paschall’s ability to shoot from deep helped draw larger defenders out of the lane, his ability to slash to the basket is how he kept them honest. Slashing isn’t the right word though, more like “freight training” his way to the hoop. His combination of a linebacker build and a quick first step made him almost impossible to stop in the lane. Things went even worse for you if you tried to meet him at the hoop...

Defensively he improved throughout the season with the rest of the team. In fact early on, he helped hold down the front court while Spellman worked his way past the hurdles facing every college rookie. Paschall was a rock for this team, and truly applied himself on the defensive end. Despite being a little undersized when playing center, he certainly didn’t give up any ground as a defender. This did lead to a number of fouls, a category in which he led the team for the season. But that type of play is what made him such an asset this season, and it’s what Villanova will need again next year.

Looking Ahead

Despite Jay Wright’s indication that Paschall may test the NBA Draft waters this off-season, the redshirt senior didn’t leave anyone guessing and declared that he would return with Phil Booth for their final season at Villanova. That was crucial for the construction of Nova’s roster next year as it’s still undetermined if Donte DiVincenzo or Omari Spellman will be returning as well.

Either way, Villanova will have a mix of proven senior leadership and young, talented underclassman. If DiVincenzo does leave for the NBA, Paschall, Booth, and Tim Delaney will be the only junior or senior scholarship players on the team. Dylan Painter and Spellman would both be redshirt sophomores, but they’ll still have a minimum of seven players with only a year or less of college game experience.

Paschall will likely be named a team captain, and he’ll have some of the responsibility of working with (and practicing against) the young wings and bigs on the team. Should he return, Spellman will still be the focal point of the front court. But players like Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Jermaine Samuels, Cole Swider, and Brandon Slater will have a lot to learn from the two time Champion. Not only should Paschall’s game improve again next season, he’s the type of player that makes the guys around him better too. Need proof? Look no further than my favorite quote from the Final Four, “Give me three youngin’!”