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Villanova Basketball Ranks 8th in Preseason KenPom Poll

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All the reasons Villanova is (and isn’t) deserving of their Top 10 ranking.

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Happy Monday Nova Nation! It’s everybody’s favorite time of year again, the return of college basketball rankings! Yes, everyone’s had their “Way-Too-Early Top 25’s” out since April. But arguably the two most talked about preseason polls are just now coming out. Later today the AP Poll will announce it’s official Preseason Top 25 for 2019-20, and yesterday KenPom.com released their preseason rankings.

As you can see, Villanova enters the season ranked #8 in the country, and that’s a day after losing to USC (#48 in the preseason poll) on the road. So how is Villanova ranked so high, and do they deserve that ranking? Let’s break down both sides of the argument.

First off, I’m admittedly a little bit surprised that Villanova is ranked this high in this particular poll. Not because I don’t think they’re good enough, but because KenPom’s preseason rankings (by his own admission) incorporate previous year’s performance until about January. It’s true, due to the lack of data and sample size in the new season, a non-insignificant amount of the ranking calculation is based on how the team performed last season. So KenPom must think pretty highly of this year’s Villanova team given that last year’s team ranked 30th to end the season.

Well, that’s only partially true. It’s not just the previous year’s team as a whole that the new rankings draw from, but rather the returning players from that team. Of the six Wildcats that KenPom categorized as “Major Contributors”, “Significant Contributors”, or “Role Players”, Villanova lost the top three in Phil Booth, Eric Paschall, and Jahvon Quinerly. So a lot of the previous year’s mix is actually replaced by estimates for sophomores with limited stats and rookies with no college experience. Because Villanova’s first and second year players were so highly touted, they’re getting a significant boost which is helping these early rankings.

But as for the efficiency stats that the rankings are based on, I think it’s going to be difficult for Villanova to live up to them. Especially early on. Forget the USC game for now becuase I don’t think anyone would seriously consider an exhibition road game in which the team was missing their entire starting back court a fair assessment of their abilities. This team’s strength, like previous seasons, will be its offense. With the return of Collin Gillespie and the addition of Bryan Antoine, along with Saddiq Bey, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and better shooting nights from Jermaine Samuels and Cole Swider, Villanova can live up to the Top 15 offense that KenPom is predicting.

My real concern is the Top 10 defense. Yes, the defense looked better than I anticipated last week which is a good sign, but it didn’t look Top 10 good. On top of that, the players they’re adding to this rotation are Gillespie (not bad, but defense not his calling card) and Antoine (has yet to even practice in Jay Wright’s system). Yes, Villanova will be long and athletic which will help. Yes, their best case scenario is to finish the year as a Top 10 defense if everything goes right. But it’s surely going to take a dip below that ranking early in the season, and may not even get back into the Top 25 until the Spring, if at all.

But hey, the season hasn’t even started yet, the team DID look good despite the loss on Friday, and I consider myself to have a “glass half full” attitude. So I’ll end by saying I do think Villanova can be a Top 10 KenPom team by the end of the season. Just don’t go expecting it through non-conference play.

In other news, plenty of coverage from last week’s exhibition with USC, CBS thinks Villanova has a realistic shot at competing for a Championship, and Josh Hart wants to make an All-NBA Defensive team. Enjoy!

Villanova Basketball

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Villanova Basketball Recruiting

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NBA Wildcats

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Villanova Football

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Villanova Athletics

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Villanova Adjacent

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