VUHoops will be kicking off the 2018-19 Villanova Basketball season with an entire month of team coverage. Check in every day for new player previews, schedule breakdowns, team analysis, event recaps, and season predictions as we get closer to the first tip-off of the year!
For the past few weeks, we’ve been trying to predict the unknown. We’ve been buried in high school stats, limited sample sizes, and cryptic tweets trying to determine how Villanova’s many new pieces will fit together on the court, in the locker room, and hopefully, one day soon, on a podium. Well, today we get to take a break from that and, instead, enjoy predicting how one of Villanova’s most consistent and most beloved players will wrap up his career on the Main Line.
Profile and Stats: Phil Booth (RS)
Hometown: Baltimore, MD | High School: Mount Saint Joseph | Height: 6’3” | Weight: 190
Phil Booth Career Stats
We often laugh in the pre-season and early March when the national media picks Booth as a “sleeper” or a “guy to watch.” Yeah, no sh*t. However, these takes somewhat reflect Booth’s career in that he’s always been overshadowed by a sexier name, a more exciting narrative, or, for two years running now, a National Player of the Year contender.
To shake things up, let’s start with what Phil Booth brings on the defensive end. He is indisputably the most elite perimeter defender on the team. He has incredible defensive instinct, he routinely neutralizes his assignments, and rarely finds himself in foul trouble, averaging just a little over 2 per game.
Depending on match-ups, Booth is typically asked to defend the opposing team’s best player. Last year, these assignments were often platoon assignments with Mikal Bridges. However, with Bridges off to the NBA, Booth will likely be asked to work some magic while the team weathers the inevitable defensive learning curve early in the season.
On the offensive end, Booth is in for a big season. Last year, he averaged 14.7 points and 4.2 assists per 40 minutes. He has a penchant for big games, posting a career high 21 points in a walloping of Xavier and pouring in another 20 against Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden.
While Booth’s injury to his shooting hand required a little bit of TLC, as he went 5 for 20 from deep his first four games back, he finished the season shooting 37.9% from three. He shot over 50% from the field and his ability to get to the rim off the dribble opened up Villanova’s offense in the rare occasions it stalled.
This year Booth will continue to be a strong leader, trusted by both his coaches and teammates. It is clear, even to an outside observer, that he is beloved in the locker room and will be invaluable to the development of Villanova’s new freshman, specifically Jahvon Quinerly.
Booth, along with Eric Paschall, will start the season as Villanova’s primary scoring options. He will be relied upon to be steadying presence as Freshman point guard Jahvon Quinerly comes along. Booth has always been gifted offensively, with the ability to shoot from the outside and get to the rim. This year will provide him with an opportunity to show off his full arsenal as one of the few proven commodities on the roster. While we’ve never seen a “selfish” Phil Booth, I am excited to see an even more aggressive Phil Booth and his impact on the offense as a whole.
That being said, the potential for Phil’s knee injury to be re-aggravated will be on the back of Jay’s mind. While Phil will likely be given as much as playing time as he can handle, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jay was conservative in some of the early games. Additionally, any expectations for this year need to be tapered with the reality that he’ll probably top out at about 25-27 minutes per game. How Jay and the staff handle/monitor Booth’s wear-and-tear will be something to watch once conference play gets rolling.
Best Case Scenario
The best case scenario is that Phil Booth becomes a destroyer of worlds. There is no better feeling than to see someone like Phil Booth, an incredible player and person, have the opportunity to end his career with a dominant season. As mentioned above, we scoff when Phil Booth is described as a “role player” because he is so much more than that. The best case scenario this season, as with every season, is more Phil.
Worst Case Scenario
As far as worst case scenarios goes, we know what it is and we’ve been there. Phil Booth has struggled with a nagging knee injury for much of his career and, last year, missed 7 games with a broken hand. While last year’s team had the talent to withstand the loss and “tread” water, the loss was still noticeable. This year, with Booth expected to shoulder much of the load (especially on defense), we need him to stay healthy on the court.
If we want to think about potentially less devastating scenarios, it could be a situation where Booth’s defensive responsibilities take an offensive toll. I will hearken back to comments made by then-assistant coach Baker Dunleavy, during Villanova’s 2016 run, when he noted that a lot is asked of Phil Booth defensively and that being worn down on defense can often impact a player’s offensive performance. While Booth went on to drop 20 on UNC, if Villanova’s defense is a train wreck and Booth spends 40 minutes mopping up missed assignments, it’s possible that his offensive production could take a hit, especially if nagging injuries become an issue.
Wisdom of the Crowds
We are pleased to bring back our Wisdom of Crowds experiment for the 2018-2019 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 player on the roster we score in the upcoming season.
How many points will Phil Booth average this season?
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