Happy Tuesday Nova Nation! The Big East Tournament kicks off tomorrow, and Villanova will spend the day watching and waiting to find out who they’ll be facing in the early game on Thursday.
The Wildcats have gone through some ups and downs this season, but through all of it two players have been most accountable for this team’s success and failures. Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, the senior captains, have been nothing short of the pillars this team is built upon. One or both of them lead the Wildcats in almost every major stat category, including points, assists, and rebounds.
However, a few players have used their skill sets to step up in specialized areas. Now heading into the conference tournament, they actually lead the team in ways that are at least a little surprising. Here are three players that currently lead the team in key stats.
3Point FG% - Saddiq Bey
Before the season started many Villanova fans thought Bey was a likely redshirt candidate who probably wouldn’t see the court. Today, he’s a starter averaging nearly 30 minutes per game and is Top 3 on the team in both FG% and rebounds. But what NOBODY could have predicted is that on a team loaded with shooters, he’d be the most efficient weapon from beyond the arc.
When reports from the UNC secret scrimmage came out that he had drained 5 threes, it seemed more anomaly than precursor. Sure, he had started out as a guard and had shown some signs of outside shooting, but nothing like this. Now he’s hit at least one three in 15 of his last 16 games, and he’s shooting 42.5% in Big East play. For those of you counting, that’s the 4th best 3FG% in the conference. If Villanova is going to win another Big East Tournament Title, they’ll need their best marksman to stay sharp.
Steals - Collin Gillespie
There have been a number of knocks on Gillespie’s defensive prowess this season, and they’re not all without some merit. The toughest thing for Gillespie has been staying in front of his man when facing off with some of the Big East’s most talented isolaters. It’s a combination of agility, speed, and footwork that he’s still working to improve. But where no one has been able to best him this year is in effort. You may get by him a few times, but at some point you’re going to pay when he reads your move and picks your pocket.
Gillespie is the only player on the team that averages more than a steal per game (1.2). He has a Steal Percentage in Big East play of 2.6%, and while that may seem small he ranks Top 10 in Big East play. With 35 steals on the season, he ranks 13th in the Big East overall. His ability to create extra possessions for the Wildcats will be key to Nova advancing through the tournament.
Offensive Rating - Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree
Cosby-Roundtree doesn’t just lead Villanova in offensive rating, he leads the entire Big East. Not only that, he’s Top 5 in the country. Yes, I agree, that doesn’t seem right for a player who averages just over 5 points per game. But there are two factors that explain his super high rating.
First it’s important to understand the change in his minutes, which have been significantly lowered since his leg injury at the beginning of Big East play. Since then he’s playing 5.3 fewer minutes per game, and Jermaine Samuels has taken over as the starter. However, Cosby-Roundtree has remained highly efficient in his scoring opportunities. He’s shooting a team high 67% from inside the arc, which ranks 2nd in the Big East and 32nd nationally.
But the biggest factor in his offensive rating is his offensive rebounds. Given his limited minutes, it’s amazing that he’s pulled in 78 offensive rebounds in just 638 minutes. He’s quietly having the greatest offensive rebounding season of any Wildcat playing more than 300 minutes since Jason Fraser. He ranks 18th in the country for OR%, and 3rd in Big East play. Cosby-Roundtree’s combination of efficient scoring and offensive rebounding is a huge asset to Villanova. Now he just needs to stop committing fouls long enough to stay on the court.
It’s going to take more than a few players performing at a high level to win the Big East Tournament. Everyone is going to have to step up their game if this team is going to win three times in three days. But the fact that these players have been able to consistently perform over the course of the season is a great sign for Villanova.
In other “news”, Villanova’s pros and cons heading into the tournament, Big East Tournament build up, and the NCAA took a step towards paying players. Enjoy!
7 legit Final Four contenders who are outside the AP Top 5 | NCAA.com
These aren't all the highest-ranked teams in the country. But these schools either have incredibly high ceilings, or have a ton of momentum heading into the NCAA tournament.
Local college teams prepare for tournament play | phillytrib.com
Villanova will head into Big East tournament play as the outright regular season champion. The Wildcats have won five regular season crowns in the last six years.
Top 25 Pros, cons for March Madness | SI.com
Should you believe in Duke, Gonzaga, Virginia, Michigan, LSU and more top teams’ ability to make a run in March? Consider the pros and cons of each.
Big East Tournament
Big East Tournament 2019: Bracket, Schedule and Championship Odds | Bleacher Report
The Big East tournament has produced some of the most unlikely moments of Championship Week in past years. Given how up-and-down most of the Big East programs have been this season, we'll be in for a wild few days at Madison Square Garden, New York...
Conference Tournament Championship Week: Breakdown and Preview of the Top Conferences | The Big Lead
The basketball action picks up this week.
The NCAA Selection Show is scrapping last year's awful format | Yahoo! Sports
Goodbye alphabetical order, welcome back matchup-by-matchup reveal.
What's real, what's fake, and why good mid-majors deserve to dance | ESPN
Here's what's real and what's fake about LSU's athletic director making the right call, and why the obsession with mediocre Power 5 schools is detrimental to the tournament.
13 notable teams who fell short in their NCAA conference tournaments | NCAA.com
Loyola Chicago and South Dakota State were two of the notable teams who lost in their conference tournaments and fell short of an automatic bid to the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
NCAA basketball players, other athletes can now receive more money—with limits | Vox
A federal court ruled on Friday that the NCAA could not cap the education-related scholarship packages that schools offer students.
Bubbles and Brackets
NCAA tournament Bubble Watch: March Madness teams on the brink | SI.com
It's the calm before the storm of Championship Week. Which of this weekend's losers need to make a splash in their conference tournaments?
NCAA Basketball 2019: Stock Watch for Bubble Teams at Start of Championship Week | Bleacher Report
With the NCAA men's basketball regular season wrapped up, teams are on to conference tournaments. Those that find themselves on the NCAA tournament bubble will have one last chance ...
College Basketball Bracketology 2019: The biggest coming attractions for the final week before Selection Sunday | SBNation.com
Nearly every remaining conference tournament will have stories to tell before the real field of 68 is announced.
March Madness 2019 bracket projections: Tracking latest Field of 68 updates | NCAA Basketball | Sporting News
Selection Sunday for the 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament is less than one week away.
March Madness Bracket Watch: NCAA tournament seed projections | SI.com
Selection Sunday is now less than a week away, and the bracket shuffle should pick up as high-major conference tournaments tip off.
College Basketball Bracketology Seed List For Monday, March 11, 2019 | Blogging the Bracket
Bradley, Gardner-Webb, and Liberty all secured their NCAA Tournament spots on Sunday.