As we reach the end of April, there’s a good chance that the expected eleven man roster for the Villanova Wildcats is the one we’re going to get in the 2020 season. Even if someone were to redshirt, that’s enough players for head coach Jay Wright to run hockey style line shifts if he wanted to. Don’t worry, if 2019 taught us anything it’s that Wright’s a long ways away from that. But with nearly half the roster coming in as rookies, we’re going to see a pretty wide rotation at least to start the season.
While there are technically 462 lineups that Wright could utilize with an eleven man roster, most of those combinations will never actually see the court. Instead, today we’ll look at the five that we’re most likely to see next season. Some of these are certainly more situational than others, but there’s a good chance all of these will get some run next season. One last note before we get started, all of these are assuming no one red shirts.
The Rookie Lineup
PG: Moore | SG: Arcidiacono | SF: Antoine | PF: Dixon | C: Robinson-Earl
Most Likely Alteration: Brandon Slater in for Chris Arcidiacono
You don’t schedule teams like Army at home early in the season because Villanova hasn’t played them since 1966. You schedule Army so that your players that are still developing get a chance to learn on the court in a real game scenario. Most of the time, we’ll only see a handful of the freshmen on the court at once. However, to close out blow out games you can be sure that Wright will have all of his younger players on the court. The only exception may be if Brandon Slater gets the nod over Arcidiacono because he didn’t have much time on the court last season. If that happens it means one of two things: either Slater wasn’t getting significant minutes during the game or Arcidiacono won’t be playing significant minutes this season.
The Big Lineup
PG: Gillespie | SG: Bey | SF: Samuels | PF: Robinson-Earl | C: Cosby-Roundtree
Most Likely Alteration: Eric Dixon in for Jermaine Samuels, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, or Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
There are going to be a few teams next season with some real bruisers in the front court. Villanova’s front court depth is better than it’s been in some time, but it’s more athletic than it is “big bodied”. That said, this lineup could hold off some bigger teams or completely dominate a smaller squad. Bey and Samuels are strong perimeter defenders, while the hyphen brothers (Robinson-Earl and Cosby-Roundtree) are both exceptional rebounders. In terms of when we’d actually see this lineup though, it’s probably more situational geared towards soaking up fouls in the paint on defense. In that sense, you can probably sub in Eric Dixon as well to clog up the lane. On offense you’re probably looking at pick and roll opportunities for Bey or Samuels to either get into the lane or fade back to the arc for open threes.
The Press Break Lineup
PG: Moore | SG: Gillespie | SF: Antoine | PF: Bey | C: Samuels
Most Likely Alteration: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in for Bryan Antoine
Unless Villanova’s playing a team that just wants to press all the time (i.e. St. John’s next season under new coach Mike Anderson), Villanova will likely be winning when facing a press. If that’s the case, Wright is going to value two things above all else: ball handling and trust. Last year only Gillespie, Samuels, Cosby-Roundtree, and Bey earned enough trust from the coaching staff to have significant roles in the rotation, with Cole Swider earning some time late. Justin Moore has the ball handling ability to be a valuable weapon against the press, and Antoine and Robinson-Earl have the skill sets coming in to earn trust early.
The Death Lineup
PG: Gillespie | SG: Antoine | SF: Bey | PF: Swider | C: Samuels
Most Likely Alteration: Justin Moore in for Cole Swider
By now everyone knows that Villanova is going to shoot A LOT of threes. I’m not expecting that to change next season, especially when they’re going to be capable of putting five shooters on the floor at once. Collin Gillespie (37.9%), Saddiq Bey (37.4%), and Jermaine Samuels (34.7%) have the three best shooting percentages from deep of the players returning from last season. Bryan Antoine comes in as the second best shooting guard in the entire Class of 2019, and shot over 40% in AAU play last season. Cole Swider was limited by a very small sample size last year due to injury, but closed strong shooting 40% from deep in his final four games (again, very small sample). Justin Moore could also be a fit for this lineup, coming off an AAU season in which he shot 36.4% from beyond the arc.
The Starting Lineup
PG: Gillespie | SG: Antoine | SF: Bey | PF: Samuels | C: Robinson-Earl
Most Likely Alteration: Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree in for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
After last year’s minutes distribution for the freshmen, I know a lot of you are going to question if Wright would ever start two freshmen at the same time. Well, he’s done it before and I think he’s going to do it again. In fact, during his time at Villanova Wright has started a pair of freshmen for at least a handful of games if not longer in eight different seasons.
Those include Randy Foye and Allan Ray in 2003, Mike Nardi and Will Sheridan in 2004, Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding in 2007. In 2008, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, and Malcolm Grant all started games, with Fisher and Pena both starting for most of the season. In 2010, Mouphtaou Yarou started with both Isaiah Armwood and Maalik Wayns in different games. In 2012, there were games in which as many as three of JayVaugh Pinkston, Darrun Hilliard, Tyrone Johnson, Markus Kennedy, and Ash Yacoubou started, with at least two of them starting multiple games together throughout the season. In 2013, Ryan Arcidiacono and Danielle Ochefu started nearly a third of the season together. And in 2018, Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree each got one start alongside fellow freshman Omari Spellman.
So with the history out of the way, let’s talk about this lineup. Collin Gillespie is going to be the leader of this team and could also wind up as one of the best shooters Wright has. He’s a lock to start. Saddiq Bey may not be named a captain, but he’s the best shooting forward on the team and should lead by example. He’s also a lock to start. The third lock is Jermaine Samuels, who really blossomed last season. Bryan Antoine has the talent to be a one-and-done candidate, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl comes in as the most polished of Wright’s heralded freshman class. There is a chance that early on Wright could start Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree as one of the team’s junior leaders and arguably their best rebounder, but I really think that Antoine and Robinson-Earl are going to be too good to keep on the bench from day one.