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The Sun’s Arizin: Villanova Basketball’s Most Improved Player

Who’s exceeded our expectations since the preseason, and who’s next?

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Happy Tuesday Nova Nation! With the Big East season about to kick off, I thought we’d take a second and look back at who’s played above expectations since the season started. Ok, took one second, then answered Brandon Slater, and everyone agreed. Honorable mention goes to Eric Dixon... everyone agrees. Cool, now let’s get to what I really want to talk about.

Let’s reset to zero and start the evaluation over starting now. Dixon can handle himself in the middle, Slater is a capable scorer. Who’s next? Who will be the most improved player from the start of Big East play to the end of the season? Let’s start with the guys that aren’t going to win it.

Worth noting but not in contention

Team Leaders: Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore - Gillespie in Moore lead the team in a number of statistical categories and are the clear initiators of the offense. They’re already playing at such a high level that while they could improve, there’s likely not enough space between where they are today and their ceilings for them to win a “most improved” award.

Bench Mob: Angelo Brizzi and Kevin Voigt - Brizzi has the unofficial red shirt tag, and Voigt just isn’t going to get the opportunity to run with the team. Huge contributors off the court and in practice, but just not up for this one.

Back of the Pack

Nnanna Njoku - Big men usually take longer to develop at the next level, and that becomes especially true when you start off with some of the setbacks Njoku has had to deal with in the pre and early seasons. He’s got a ton of potential, and if he can take advantage of any opportunities Wright gives him on the court in December and January he’s got an outside chance, but his window is very slim before Wright does his traditional rotation lock in February.

Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree - Unfortunately I think DCR’s best days are behind him. I love that he’s found his way onto the court, and any minutes he can give us will certainly be valuable given his size and experience. But unless he can somehow find a way back to where he was when he dominated FSU and one MVP of a Turkey Tournament, I think he’ll be behind other candidates for this award.

Trey Patterson - I may be alone in this, but I have just not seen what I thought I would out of Patterson this year. He lacks aggressiveness on the boards, his footwork leaves something to be desired, and his extra time with the team hasn’t really led to a better understanding of the concepts. He’ll certainly get some opportunities to show that things are clicking, but at this point I don’t even think he’s the most likely freshman on the squad to be named most improved.

The Dark Horses

Bryan Antoine - Maybe it’s wishful thinking to have Antoine up in this group, but the Junior wing has been cleared for practice and finally got to dress for the Baylor game. We’ve seen his skill set before, and considering we’ve seen nothing from him yet this year he certainly has the room for growth to give Nova some much needed bench expansion. The question as it always has been is how much of the time off he can overcome before Jay locks the roster up. Fingers crossed on this one, even if he’s not most improved.

Jordan Longino - Longino’s in the same spot as Antoine, but for different reasons. It’s all about how much opportunity he can get on the court, because we’ve already seen the flashes that he can be a contributor sooner rather than later. Learning the defense, honing his shot, and earning time are all realistic goals for him this season. Here’s hoping he can achieve them.

Chris Arcidiacono - Arch 2.0 is in the dark horse category for a completely different reason. He’s got the opportunity already, now he’s got to hold onto it and do more with it. It’s clear he has the coaching staff’s trust and knows Villanova basketball better than most. It’s all about making the most of his skill set and finding his spots to be a more consistent contributor.

The Contenders

Brandon Slater - If the question was who was the most improved player for the whole year, Slater’s already done enough to have that sewn up. No one expected the level of play he’s shown so far, and while the shot is starting to come back to earth he’s still playing at a high level with confidence. The question is, does he have yet another level to his game? He just might, only time will tell.

Caleb Daniels - Daniels seems to have shaken the funk from his post COVID symptoms and returned to form as the reliable first man off the bench for the Wildcats. He has the potential to be a top three scoring threat for this team, and it wouldn’t be the first time that person came off the bench. If he can improve a little more on decision making and defense, he’ll be a prime candidate for most improved in Big East play.

Jermaine Samuels - We’ve seen what this guy can do. The name “Big Game Jermaine” didn’t come from nowhere. The question just becomes if he steps up to it again. I have no doubt in my mind that there’s at least one 30 point game coming for the super senior this year, the question becomes how often can he play at that level. All of that said, most improved or not, his floor is so high that I have no doubt about his continued positive impact on this team’s bottom line.

The Front Runner

Eric Dixon - This choice for front runner may come as a surprise to some of you, but I think all the signs are there. He’s shown that he can play effectively at this level, and the coaching staff clearly trusts him. In fact, we’ve seen multiple times already in non-conference play that they’ve actively run offense to try to get the ball down into Dixon’s hands and let him work. There are a number of talented bigs in the Big East where we’re going to need Dixon to come up big and continue to perform at a high level. I think that combination of opportunity and ability makes him the clear favorite to continue growing his contributions to this team.

So who’s your pick for most improved player moving forward? Be sure to vote here and leave your comments below.

Poll

Who will be Villanova’s Most Improved Player from now through Big East play?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Bryan Antoine
    (81 votes)
  • 36%
    Brandon Slater
    (133 votes)
  • 1%
    Chris Arcidiacono
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Justin Moore
    (11 votes)
  • 1%
    Trey Patterson
    (4 votes)
  • 7%
    Caleb Daniels
    (28 votes)
  • 7%
    Jordan Longino
    (26 votes)
  • 0%
    Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Nnanna Njoku
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    Jermaine Samuels
    (9 votes)
  • 17%
    Eric Dixon
    (65 votes)
368 votes total Vote Now

In other news, Baylor is #1, Kyle Lowry’s still got it, and Big East play is set to begin. Enjoy!

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