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The Sun’s Arizin: Give Brandon Slater The Ball

Villanova’s latest late bloomer is shooting the lights out this season.

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Happy Monday Nova Nation! With most of the Big 5 slate in the review mirror, Villanova is looking ahead to two big matchups this week: Syracuse and Baylor. ‘Cuse is a program that Nova certainly knows well from their days in the Big East, but they also now have former Wildcat Cole Swider in their starting lineup. Villanova should be favored to take down the Orange at MSG before traveling to Baylor this weekend for yet another non-conference Top 5 matchup in a true road scenario.

But we still have another day to worry about who’s up next, today I want to talk about the most recent late-blooming star to come out of Jay Wright’s program, Brandon Slater. Slater started his career barely playing off the bench, and while he started to get time as a sophomore his offensive contributions were negligible. He really started becoming a factor in the rotation last season, averaging 16 minutes a game, getting two starts, and proving to be a truly impactful defensive player. Offensively he scored just under 4 points a game, but there were glimmers of promise as he did shoot over 41% from behind the arc in the few shots he did put up. Now eight games into the season, he’s not only Villanova’s best shooter, but he’s 3rd on the team in both points (14ppg) and minutes (30.3mpg). Yeah, I’d say it’s a bit of a bump.

When I say that Slater is Villanova’s best shooter, I’m not joking. He’s currently shooting 46.9% from deep, tied for the best 3pt% on the team with leading scorer Collin Gillespie. He’s by FAR the most efficient finisher inside the arc at 75%, and his team best 72.7% Effective FG% ranks him 14th overall in the country per KenPom.com. Really the only problem with Slater’s performance so far is that with efficiency numbers like that he should be shooting WAY more.

Right now, Slater is responsible for just 17.5% of the team’s possessions when he’s on the floor. That means the possession ends with Slater doing something with the ball (turnover, shot, foul, etc.). That puts him at 6th on the team, and the only players getting minutes with lower percentages are Jordan Longino, Trey Patterson, and Chris Arcidiacono. His percentage of shots is a little better at 18.4%, but that still puts him 5th on the team.

Now I’m not saying Slater should be forcing up shots. Part of the reason his efficiency is so high is that he’s been really good at his shot selection. But what Villanova should do is run more offense to get the ball in his hands and let him make a decision on probing the defense and making shots. And the other statistics on the season say he could handle having the ball in his hands more. He currently ranks 3rd on the team in assists and has a turnover rate of just 10.3 (for comparison, Gillespie’s turnover rate is 10.1 and Moore’s is 9.3). Slater is a senior, he’s trusted by the coaching staff, and his stats backup his performance. Let’s get this guy the ball!

In other news, Villanova Football advances to the FCS Quarterfinals, The Hawk is Dead (x10), and the NCAA’s NET rankings return this week. Enjoy!

Villanova Beats St. Joe’s

Gillespie, Moore lead No. 6 Villanova past Saint Joe's 81-52 | USA Today
Collin Gillespie scored 23 points to lead No. 6 Villanova to an 81-52 victory over Saint Joseph’s

Villanova routs St. Joseph’s, 81-52, with Collin Gillespie’s 23 points and strong team defense | The Inquirer
The Wildcats, who defeated a Big 5 rival for the third time in seven days, held the Hawks to 36.2% shooting. Nova's Justin Moore scored 16 points and helped hold Taylor Funk scoreless

Men's Basketball Drops Big 5 Opener At #6 Villanova | Saint Joseph's University
Saint Joseph's Jordan Hall finished with a team-high 22 points, but the Hawks fell to #6 Villanova in their Big 5 opener, 81-52, on Saturday afternoon at Finneran

Photos of Villanova's victory over the Hawks | The Inquirer
Villanova defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks, 81-52, in their Big 5 matchup at the Finneran Pavilion on Dec. 4.

Wildcats Continue Big 5 Dominance, Rout St Joe's 81-52 | villanovan.com
The Villanova Wildcats defeated the St. Joseph’s Hawks 81-52 on Saturday afternoon to improve to 6-2 on the season and 3-0 in the Big 5. The victory marks the 10th

Upcoming Games: Syracuse and Baylor

Cole Swider makes two clutch free throws to help secure Syracuse’s win at Florida State | Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician
Cole world. Cole life. Cole blooded?

No. 4 Baylor dominates Arkansas-Pine Bluff for 99-54 win | Dallas Morning News
WACO, Texas (AP) — LJ Cryer and the fourth-ranked Baylor Bears were ready to get back to playing together, a week after getting home from winning a title in the Bahamas. Baylor is off for another week until they face Villanova.

Villanova Recruiting

National High School Hoops Fest: Deshawn Harris-Smith recaps visits | Scarlet Nation
Four-star shooting guard Deshawn Harris-Smith had a very productive night on day one of the National High School Hoopsfest. He talks about his visit to Villanova.

Big Five

Penn falls to North Philly rival Temple in close-fought contest | The Daily Pennsylvanian
Despite the Quakers' victorious 66-59 the last time these two teams met, this time they would leave North Philly winless in Big Five play. Penn (3-8) fell to Temple (5-3), 81-72.

Villanova Football

Villanova’s Forrest Rhyne is a maniac (in the film room) | Inquirer
Attention to every detail turned the Villanova linebacker into the CAA defensive player of the year.

South Dakota State hangs on in FCS playoffs, advances to meet Villanova in quarterfinals | The Mitchell Republic
Jackrabbits improve to 10-3 on the season with 24-19 win, and will now take on Villanova in the quarterfinals.

Re-ranking the remaining FCS teams entering the quarterfinals | NCAA.com
Just eight teams remain after two rounds of 2021 FCS championship action. As the quarterfinals approach, the time is right to re-rank the teams left standing. Villanova is projected to advance again.

Villanova Women’s Basketball

Villanova's Lior Garzon finding her scoring form in her second season after arriving from Israel | Inquirer
The sophomore forward, who averaged 8.8 ppg last season, has upped her average to a team-best 16.8 ppg so far this season.

NBA Wildcats

Suns news: Phoenix gets positive injury update on Mikal Bridges | Clutch Points
The Phoenix Suns got a positive update on the injured pinky finger of forward Mikal Bridges, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The 76ers' Epic 2018 NBA Draft Blunder Is Somehow Turning Into an Even Bigger Disaster | Sportscasting
See how the Philadelphia 76ers' decision to choose Zhaire Smith over Mikal Bridges in 2018 is turning into an even bigger disaster.

4 second-round NBA rookies that already look like steals | Hoops Habit
The 2021 NBA Draft class was a deep one. Here are four second-round NBA rookies who already look like steals so far this season. Villanova's JRE tops the list.

College Basketball

No. 5 UCLA at Washington canceled due to COVID-19 issues - College Basketball | NBC Sports
No. 5 UCLA's game at Washington on Sunday has been canceled because of COVID-19 issues in the Huskies' program. It will count as a victory for the Bruins.

Turgeon out as Maryland head coach | NBC Sports
Mark Turgeon’s tenure at Maryland is over, less than a month after the start of his 11th season at the helm.

Here's what we might see in the first men's basketball NET rankings for the 2021-22 season | NCAA.com
Here's everything you need to know about the release of the first NET rankings of the season.