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Villanova Basketball takeaways from Big 5 play

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So, Kansas... you’re saying there’s a chance!

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Happy Monday Nova Nation! It doesn’t matter where or by how much, it’s always fun to beat St. Joe’s. I’d love to call it a rivalry, but since Jamir Nelson left St. Joe’s they’re 2-13 against the Wildcats. Sorry Hawks fans, but you lose seven straight and no one is going to be worried about playing you.

But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any value in Saturday’s win. First off, it extended Nova’s Big 5 streak to 25 wins and sets the Cats up to win their 6th consecutive Big 5 title on Tuesday. But more than that, it gave Villanova fans some more insight to how this team is progressing now ten games in.

Phil Booth is still learning to play aggressive. Let me clarify, Booth IS playing aggressive. But now he needs to make the right decisions while playing aggressive. It’s kind of been like Jay Wright’s philosophy on early season three point shooting. He lets the team be overly aggressive in taking threes, and then learn better shot selection as the season goes on.

Booth has been learning how to play in his new role, now leading the team in both points and assists a quarter of the way into the season. He’s zeroing in on that perfect combination of aggressiveness and decision making, but as he gets there we’ve seen the pendulum swing a bit far to either side. First he was turning the ball over at an alarming rate in the AdvoCare Invitational. His assists are up and turnovers are down in Big 5 play, but now we’re seeing him start forcing some contested shots and a declining shooting percentage. It will all sort itself out as he becomes used to his new role on the team and his teammates improve around him, he’s just not quite there yet.

Jermaine Samuels and Joe Cremo are filling out the rotation. Samuels’ emergence in the past two games has been a long time coming. No one has ever been able to question his effort or rebounding, but overall the offensive and defensive schemes just hadn’t seemed to “click” yet for the sophomore. That all changed with his game saving performance against Temple, followed by a second double digit scoring and 7+ rebounding effort this Saturday. More importantly, Wright has found another player off the bench he can start unloading some minutes on. In the last three games, Samuels playing time has jumped from 5 to 16 to 25. If that’s not a sign of confidence from the head coach, I don’t know what is.

Samuels’ big games have somewhat overshadowed the continued development of grad transfer Joe Cremo. He too has gained Wright’s confidence in the rotation, playing 20+ minutes in all three Big 5 games this season. But he’s also been getting more open looks from deep, launching a season high 10 three-point attempts on Saturday. As the team’s best marksman from deep, he connected on 40%, and is shooting over 45% for the season. But it’s not just because his teammates are finding him open more, he’s been more aggressive with shot fakes and taking defenders to the lane when they overextend. With his mask scheduled to come off in the next few days, don’t be surprised if his offense just continues to improve throughout December.

2019 is going to be amazing! Ok, this isn’t something we learned from Big 5 play, but I couldn’t not write about it. Class of 2019 Nova commit Eric Dixon needed 8 points in his game yesterday to become his school’s all time leading scorer. He scored 43. Get excited.

In other “news”, the hawk was dead, the hawk is dead, the hawk will be dead. Enjoy!

The Hawk Is Dead

Villanova holds off late St. Joseph’s surge, beat Hawks with strong bench scoring | The Inquirer
It was the 25th straight Big 5 win for the Wildcats.

Paschall, No. 21 Villanova beat Saint Joseph's 70-58 | USA Today
Paschall scores 14 as No. 21 Villanova knocks off Saint Joseph's 70-58

Upcoming Games

Penn men's basketball cruises to lopsided victory in Big 5 opener at La Salle | The Daily Pennsylvanian
Villanova and Penn will face off next, with Nova having a chance to sweep its 6th consecutive Big 5 Championship.

Jayhawks to hold teddy bear toss to benefit Toys for Tots | University of Kansas Athletics
Fans are encouraged to bring teddy bears or other plush toys 24 inches or smaller. If you're heading to the game Nova Nation, represent and bring something for the kiddies.

Villanova Basketball

Philadelphia's historic Palestra shows off everything great about US college sports | The Sun
SunSport was in the iconic arena to watch a local derby between 'Big 5' rivals La Salle and Villanova.

AUDIO: College Basketball Podcast: Tennessee beat Gonzaga -- and what's wrong with John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats? | CBSSports.com
Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander also discuss Kansas' close call with New Mexico State, Kentucky's loss to Seton Hall, and Villanova's next 3 games.

NBA Wildcats

Heart and hustle, Ryan Arcidiacono brings it | Chicago Bulls
The play was one of a few hundred Friday that got lost in the excitement of the Bulls win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lauri Markkanen's winning score and the first win for new Bulls coach Jim Boylen. But Ryan Arcidiacono's steal, dive and save was an encouraging indication of the commitment of these Bulls players and shall we say, an archetype for the Bulls moving forward.

Villanova Basketball: Josh Hart is among the NBA's best two-way guards | Section 215
In less than 100 games, Villanova Wildcats basketball alum Josh Hart has already established himself as one of the best two-way shooting guards in the NBA.

Phoenix Suns: Igor Kokoskov is losing the locker room | Valley of the Suns
The Phoenix Suns were blown out yet again, and multiple players seem to be clashing with head coach Igor Kokoskov. He's losing the locker room.

College Basketball

College Basketball Power Rankings: Duke Is Outflanked by Michigan and Gonzaga | The Ringer
For some reason, college football lets only four teams compete for its championship. Luckily, college basketball doesn’t have that problem. Welcome to the first edition of the most powerful power rankings for the 2018-19 season.

These are the remaining undefeated teams this college basketball season | NCAA.com
The college basketball season started with 353 undefeated teams. Now, we’re down to 10.

The March Madness field predicted, 100 days away from Selection Sunday | NCAA.com
We break down Andy Katz's December NCAA March Madness bracket and reveal his Final Four, NCAA champion and the biggest movers in the first month of the college basketball season.