Happy Thursday Nova Nation! It’s always a great day after a win, and even better when you’re there to see it in person. My wife and I were at the game last night, and despite some annoying Penn students that were sitting behind us and had the AUDACITY to criticize Jay Wright’s wardrobe, it was a great game to be at. A little closer throughout than I would have liked, but still a great game.
After the game though, there’s one area a lot of people seem to be concerned about. Less an area, than one player in particular. Bryan Antoine, Villanova’s 5-star freshman, only played two minutes in last night’s game, none of which came in the second half. Since making his debut at the Myrtle Beach Invitational, Antoine is averaging over 8 MPG, but that’s a bit misleading. While he saw a combined 31 minutes against Middle Tennessee and La Salle, his minute totals in the other three games (against better competition) have been <1, 0, and 2.
Personally, I’m not worried. And I think there are very good reasons that he didn’t play a lot in those three games that I’ll get into in a minute. Would I like to see him on the court more? Absolutely. But I think the fan base needs to take a breath, consider everything that’s going on, and think a little more long term. Here’s three things we should consider regarding Antoine’s minutes.
Bryan Antoine’s situation isn’t the same as Jahvon Quinerly’s
The comment I’m hearing most frequently is that Jay is screwing up another 5-star recruit and that this is going to have detrimental recruiting consequences. First off, it’s been three games under 10 minutes, I don’t think that ruins anything with recruiting. Second, a lot of this comparison has to do with what happened to Jahvon Quinerly last season. I can’t stress this enough, these are entirely different cases.
Quinerly’s minutes last year were surprising not just because of his talent, but because of the opportunity in front of him. There was a need at the position, but for a number of reasons he wasn’t bought in. I’m not going to rehash the situation, but what he did have was the time to prepare for the role, and a need by the team.
Bryan Antoine’s situation is completely different. First off, he missed the entire offseason. That’s huge, especially for a freshman that has to learn an entirely new system on both ends of the court. Quinerly had that opportunity and didn’t pick it up. And it’s not impossible to do, Bey did it last year and Robinson-Earl has done it now. Sure, there are still rookie mistakes and it’s not perfect, but they had the time to learn and grow in those roles. Antoine has been able to learn this stuff on the court for one month, not six as would usually be the case. It doesn’t matter if you play him every minute for the rest of the season, you can’t just magically make up for that kind of missed time.
And there’s also the fact that Antoine’s best skills at this point are on offense, the one area Villanova is actually excelling at. Sure he can make them better, he has that kind of talent. But eight games into the season Villanova is the 2nd most efficient offense in the country, so there’s no need to rush him back just to help on that end of the ball. Quinerly could have helped last year’s team in giving them another option on an offense that had three, maybe four. This year’s team clearly has six options already, and they’re all producing. There’s no need to rush him back to fill a need at this point
There’s more going on than you see on your TV screen
Being at the game last night, and my wife can confirm this, I only spent about half of the time watching the actual game. I actually made a concentrated effort to watch the interactions on Villanova’s bench, knowing I could go back and rewatch what was happening on the court on my DVR. Specifically, I wanted to see who the coaches were sitting with, talking to, and coaching up.
There was a lot of time spent with guys going in and out of the game. As usual, you could tell when guys were getting chastised for defensive lapses or words of encouragement on taking the ball down in the paint when Penn tried to run Villanova off the perimeter. But there were also a number of occasions when Jay would see something on the court, walk down to where Antoine was sitting, and point it out specifically to him. Sure there were other guys around him and the lessons I’m sure were good for everyone on the bench. But from my seats it was clear Jay was talking to Antoine, and I’d assume telling him what to be keying in on from the bench.
The point here is that even if Antoine’s not in the game, Jay’s coaching him like he is. We only get to see what happens with this team for two, four, or six hours a week depending on how many games they have. We don’t get to see what happens in practice, which takes up about 10x the amount of court time than what we see in a game. But there’s clearly an effort to ramp Antoine up, even if the minutes aren’t there yet. You don’t see that level of attention to players who aren’t playing if there isn’t a clear plan for them moving forward.
There is such a thing as too much playing time
Let me start by saying I’d like to see Antoine getting at least 10 minutes a night. I understand that’s not always going to happen, especially early on in close games. I don’t subscribe to the “lose games now to help develop players”, because last night five freshmen and sophomores who are still developing (Bey, Robinson-Earl, Moore, Swider, and Slater) all played 20+ minutes in a win. They may still be developing, but they were also ready to contribute to a victory. This isn’t a case of players not getting time to develop, I think it’s better described as making sure they’re set up to develop.
Antoine has a lot to learn still. You can see when he gets in that his talents can make up for a lot, but you also see that he has a lot to learn as well. It’s one thing to play bigger minutes against teams that aren’t at Villanova’s level. We’ve seen Antoine look good in those games, even if they also came with a lot of moments when he looked lost or clearly got beat. That’s expected, and he’s still learning. But it’s also not something we’d expect from Villanova players.
My worry with sending him out there for 30+ minutes a night, which some have suggested, is that too many things could go wrong and not enough things go right. Unfortunately we already have an example of this in Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. DCR does some things really well, and I still think he should be playing more than he is. But he’s also been making more and more mental errors, and as they build up his level of play and minutes have been declining. I’d hate to see something similar happen to Antoine, and there’s a non-zero chance that playing him extensively when there’s still a lot he needs to learn could be detrimental.
At the end of the day, I’m not an expert on college basketball. I’m not in practice with the team every day. And I’m not a future hall of fame coach. Jay Wright is those things, and I think the fan base needs to trust that he’s doing what’s best for the player and the team. It’s still early December, and our initial assessment was that Antoine wouldn’t even be eligible to play for another month. Let’s just all have some patience and see how things develop through the rest of the non-conference.
In other “news”, Saddiq Bey was super impressive last night, the Women’s team fell in overtime to Drexel, and DePaul is still undefeated. Enjoy!
Villanova Men’s Basketball
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College basketball's top freshmen are again creating a lot of buzz, but some under-the-radar youngsters are thriving as well.
Villanova defeats Penn
Behind Bey, No. 23 Villanova holds off pesky Penn 80-69 | USA Today
Saddiq Bey scored a career-high 27 points to lead Nova
Saddiq Bey's career-high 27 points help No. 23 Villanova hold off Penn | NBC Sports Philadelphia
Saddiq Bey scored a career-high 27 points Wednesday night as No. 23 Villanova avoided another upset defeat against Penn with an 80-69 victory.
Villanova Outlasts Penn in a Big Five Battle | Philly College Sports
The nationally ranked Villanova Wildcats and the defending Big Five Champions the University of Pennsylvania Quakers. Need to say much more?
Toohey: Villanova's Robinson-Earl learns fast to get the better of Brodeur, Penn | Sports | delcotimes.com
RADNOR — Until Wednesday night, Villanova’s Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had never faced Penn’s A.J. Brodeur.
Villanova 80, Penn 69: Statistics, highlights, and reactions from the Big 5 game | The Inquirer
The meeting was the first since the Quakers broke the Wildcats' 25-game Big 5 winning streak, and the visitors tried valiently to make it back-to-back wins.
Observations from Villanova’s 80-69 victory over Penn | The Inquirer
This time, it was Penn with a multiyear Big 5 winning streak on the line.
Bey's Big Night Helps Wildcats Outlast Penn 80-69 | Villanova University Athletics
Villanova held off a series of second half runs to down Penn 80-79 Wednesday night.
Live blog: Penn men's basketball at Villanova | The Daily Pennsylvanian
Coming off a 2-1 showing at the Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, Calif. over Thanksgiving break, Penn men's basketball is back in the Philadelphia area to face Big 5 rival Villanova.
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The Toronto Raptors dropped Kyle Lowry back into the deep end on Tuesday night, clearing him to play 41 minutes in his first game back from a small thumb
Salary Afterthought? Omari Spellman Entrenching Himself In Golden State Warriors' Plans | The Runner Sports
From a swap that was mostly salary-driven, Omari Spellman has gone from an afterthought to carving out a place among the Golden State Warriors' plans.
Jalen Brunson had a magical fourth quarter against the Timberwolves | Mavs Moneyball
A perfect quarter from the sophomore powered Dallas to a win.
Power Rankings: Paschall, Hachimura climb in Week 6 | Rookie Wire
Rookie Wire takes a look at the top rookies through the sixth week of the 2019-20 NBA season.
Villanova Women’s Basketball
Women’s City Six basketball: Penn’s historic start continues, St. Joe’s Jekot notches first double-double | The Inquirer
The Quakers improved to 6-1, the Hawks routed Sacred Heart, Drexel beat Villanova in overtime, and Temple went on the road and beat Towson.
WILDCATS FALL IN OVERTIME AT DREXEL | Villanova University Athletics
PHILADELPHIA, PA. – In women's basketball action on Wednesday evening, the Villanova Wildcats traveled to Drexel where they lost a hard fought 54-52 overtime game
St. Joseph's Schulters, son of NFL Pro Bowler, announces college commitment | My Central Jersey
K-Shawn Schulters, son of an NFL All-Pro, has announced his college commitment
Athlete of the Week: Forrest Rhyne, Football | Sports | villanovan.com
Villanova Football Co-Captain Forrest Rhyne was a staple of Villanova’s defensive front this season. He led the team in tackles with 116, 14.5 of which were for a loss of
St. Joseph’s Fried, McMahon’s McNamara named high school girls soccer All-Americans | Connecticut Post
Fried, who has verbally committed to play at Villanova University in 2021, has 64 goals and 43 assists in three seasons.
How Saint Joseph's University is Tackling an Increasingly Competitive Higher Education Landscape | Main Line Today
Some local schools are focused on how they can stand out from their higher-profile neighbors. Hint: It's Villanova.
DePaul defeats Texas Tech 65-60 in overtime | Chicago Tribune
Jalen Coleman-Lands led DePaul with 18 points, including three late 3-pointers and two other clutch plays in overtime, as the Blue Demons beat Texas Tech 65-60.
What happened to Virginia, and is Ohio State the Big Ten's best? | ESPN
The Big Ten/ACC Challenge is over, and opinions are emerging on both leagues' key teams.