Happy Tuesday Nova Nation! The college football season officially came to an end last night as Georgia showed that there are sports they’re good at. Sorry Bulldogs, basketball isn’t one of them this year. As with every year, the focus of the sports world now starts to shift. For the general sports fan, attention will likely turn to the NBA first with the trade deadline and the All-Star game on the horizon before March Madness kicks off. However, today marks the beginning of an uptick in the number of eyes on college basketball. And to those of you who have found our little corner of the internet, welcome!
For those of you that haven’t been fully paying attention, and I include some AP Voters in that statement, let’s answer some quick questions you may have about what the Wildcats have been up to so far.
Four Losses?!?!? Does Villanova Suck This Year?
No, no they don’t. Sure, they do have four losses, but let’s remember that three of those losses come against three teams that all rank in the Top 10 currently and have all received first place votes at some point this season. And yes, that includes the team that currently has all of the first place votes. That fourth loss you ask? Yup, big loss to an unranked team on the road. Not great. But the Wildcats did turn around and win their next four games including beating that team at home by 34.
The Wildcats currently rank 14th in the AP Poll, 5th on KenPom.com, and 7th in the NET ranking. All signs are pointing towards another really good season for the Wildcats and a possible deep run in March.
So who’s going to challenge Villanova in the Big East this year?
If you asked me this question a month ago, I may have guessed everyone but Georgetown. But after a few weeks and a few COVID pauses ending, the field is beginning to become a bit clearer. Like I said, the Hoyas are so bad they get a whole tier at the bottom to themselves. Next is another solo tier for DePaul. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’ve turned a corner as a program. But 0-4 to start the Big East isn’t going to cut it. Next tier are the teams that aren’t going to compete for a regular season title, but could pull off some upset wins: Butler, Marquette, Creighton, and St. John’s.
Then we have UConn and Seton Hall, the leagues slow starters due to COVID issues who could each make powerful pushes over the next month to challenge for the conference title. And at the top you have the current leaders in Villanova, Providence, and Xavier. Of these three, Providence still has the most question marks. Xavier is the true challenger to Villanova’s crown (with UConn looking like a possible second). And of course the Wildcats remain the team to beat in the league. It’s good to be the king.
One other thing to note about the Big East Regular Season Title. The conference officially changed the rules mid-season, getting rid of forfeits due to COVID pauses and instead pledging that the conference offices would reschedule as many of the games as possible. So far they’re doing a decent job, but it’s going to lead to a few tough stretches for teams with just one day of rest between multiple games. It also means that Win% will likely determine the season champ, not just number of wins or losses. It basically gives that much more weight to every game the teams do play this season, so keep that in mind.
What are the Villanova storylines I need to know more about?
Let’s start with a few quick fun ones. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree was able to get into a few games this year as a backup, but he doesn’t look to be a part of the rotation moving forward. Still, always great to see him play. Collin Gillespie was named a Preseason All-American, and currently leads KenPom’s rankings for Big East Player of the Year. Justin Moore is currently #2 on that list. Also, and hold onto your butts for this one, Jay Wright isn’t wearing suits. You’ll need a few games to adjust to this one.
The larger storylines are far more interesting. First off, Villanova ran a VERY short rotation in the non-conference. He’s still running primarily just seven deep, eight if Villanova is controlling the game. The journey so far has been the shift in the depth chart early in conference play. Starting Five and Caleb Daniels as the 6th man seem to be locked in. We’re now seeing Bryan Antoine take over the 7th spot, averaging 18 minutes in his last three games. The 8th man appears to be freshman Jordan Longino, but his participation appears to be completely game script dependent. Down to the 9th slot is Chris Arcidiacono, who only saw three minutes in Villanova’s most recent game against DePaul.
The other big development has been Villanova three point shooting, or lack there of. The Wildcats went on a five game run where they shot 30% or worse from deep, but that didn’t end up being a complete negative. The struggles from deep led to a refocusing on pushing the ball inside, and Villanova’s dependence on the three point shot dropped drastically. It’s probably made them a more well rounded team moving forward, another great example of how early struggles can pay dividends later in the season.
The last thing to keep in mind is COVID pauses. Villanova is the only team in the Big East that hasn’t had a conference game postponed or rescheduled due to COVID pauses. That doesn’t mean the program hasn’t had to deal with it, as they missed Caleb Daniels for a pair of games after he tested positive. Thankfully, unlike last season he appears to have rebounded nicely from the illness given his 11 points and strong shooting performance against DePaul. Still, knock on wood, fingers crossed, and all that good stuff that this is the extent of Villanova’s COVID issues for the rest of the season.
There’s plenty more to catch up on, but this should at least get you up to speed. Welcome back to Villanova Basketball folks, it’s shaping up to be another crazy ride!
In other news, Villanova gets ready for Xavier, Justin Moore captures Big East Player of the Week, and whether or not Jay Wright should return to suits. Enjoy!
Villanova at Xavier
1-on-1 with XU's Steele: Butler win and looking ahead to Villanova | WKRC
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Xavier finally returned to action on Friday night, scoring a win over Butler on the road. It was the first game for the Musketeers since December 21, 2021, thanks to multiple cancelations due to COVID-19. XU head coach Travis Steele joined Local 12 sports anchor Chris Renkel to discuss the win over the Bulldogs, and the upcoming matchup against Villanova on Wednesday.
Xavier was rusty against Butler; they can't be against Nova | Banners On The Parkway
After a 17-day break, Xavier has enough to hold the Bulldogs at bay. They'll need to be better if they want to take down Nova.
Villanova Men’s Basketball
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