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The Sun’s Arizin: Villanova Basketball Is Making Adjustments

Slowly but surely, this team is coming together.

Villanova Mug Arizin Links

Happy New Year Nova Nation! Villanova’s win over Xavier was a much needed end to a losing streak. Their win this weekend over Seton Hall was an equally needed start to a winning streak as the Wildcats improved to 2-1 in Big East play.

While the Temple game was postponed (and will likely be canceled) due to COVID issues with the Owls, we’ve now gotten a good three games of Big East play to see what if any changes Jay Wright and his staff are making. Good news, changes are happening! What are they? What do they mean? Will they continue? Let’s dive in.

The shooting slump is... over?

The Wildcats officially ended their four game slump of shooting under 30% from three with Saturday’s win. Of course they did that by shooting exactly 30%. The Wildcats are now shooting 35.4% on the year from deep, which is a far cry from the hot start they got off to to begin the season. However, this is basically the same average Nova has had for the last three seasons: 35.3% in ‘21; 35.9% in ‘20, 35.2% in ‘19. Sure the last five games have all been below that, but that will likely normalize too. I’d expect 35% is about where Nova wraps up the season... again.

But the change that’s being made isn’t how well Villanova is shooting from three, it’s how often they’re shooting from three. On the season the Wildcats average over 47% of their shots taken from deep, which is Top 20 in the country. However, in the past three games the Villanova has taken 40% or fewer of their shots from deep. That had happened just twice in ten games prior to the start of Big East play. It’s too early to say for certain if this is a definitive strategy shift for the Wildcats, but my guess is it isn’t. I think it’s far more likely that Big East teams know they have to run Nova off the three point line, and that’s opening up more opportunities to drive and play inside the arc. Nova will always take threes, but it’s good to see them adjust to what defenses are giving them instead of just sticking to the script.

The rotation is... expanding?

No, Jay’s not about to run 10 guys out onto the court. But we have seen some new faces recently that should give Nova fans some hope. Let’s start with the big one from this weekend, Bryan Antoine. Antoine officially returned to the court in seven minutes against Creighton, but then followed that with a DNP against Xavier. The good news is that with Caleb Daniels out with COVID, Antoine stepped up with the biggest chunk of bench minutes (16) with a strong showing. He only went one for five from three, but was perfect at the stripe and had a great offensive rating.

We also saw the continued expansion of Jordan Longino’s playing time. Longino has now appeared in five of the last six games, recording six minutes off the bench for the Wildcats. While he likely would have gotten a little more run if he hadn’t gotten a little foul happy, it was the good kind of aggressive that you want to see in a freshman. And considering it resulted in two steals and not a loss, I’ll take it!

Of course if some players are seeing their minutes increase, others have to see a decrease. The easy callout this weekend is Caleb Daniels, who was unavailable after being placed in COVID protocols. Daniels went through the same thing last season, and the illness clearly lingered for a while afterwards effecting his shooting and conditioning. We’ll have to wait and see how quickly he can not only get eligible to return, but bounce back to 100%. Here’s hoping it’s sooner rather than later.

Another interesting although someone expected development has been the return of Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree to the end of the bench. DCR had been a surprise activation earlier this year when Villanova was down a few players due to the flu, but since the St. Joe’s game he’s seen his minutes steadily decline. In fact, he didn’t get off the bench in either of Villanova’s last two games. We may see him hop back on the court in a time of need later this season, but he likely won’t be a meaningful part of the rotation moving forward.

The last name to mention here is Chris Arcidiacono. While he’s very much still a relied on member of the rotation, we’re starting to see signs that he’s been passed by Bryan Antoine on the depth chart. He’s still the fourth option at point guard after Gillespie, Moore, and Daniels, which was evident as both Gillespie and Moore fouled out of Saturday’s game. But outside of that shorthanded necessity Arch has been seeing his minutes decline and a quicker yank out of the game from Wright, especially when the team is on defense.

So what does all this mean for the rotation when Daniels returns? I think Villanova will head out of Big East play with an eight man rotation, and a ninth contributor they can call on reliably if needed. Assuming health, I think Daniels and Antoine are going to be locked into the 6th and 7th spots respectively. There’s probably 5-10 minutes a game left over for an 8th man, and we’ll see if that ends up being Longino or Arch. It may just end up being situational for offense or defense, but Longino continues to impress on the defensive end. And as we all know, that’s where you earn minutes with Jay Wright.

Jermaine Samuels is... fixed?

Samuels certainly played his part in Saturday’s win, recording his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. He’s still playing quality defense, and he’s always had a knack to fill up all the columns of a stat sheet, so that’s all good. He showed some flashes of driving and dunking, the Samuels we all thought we’d see a lot more of this year.

However, there are still some red flags that indicate there’s still some hesitancy with his game. The glaring one was a complete lack of three point attempts in this game. To put that into perspective, it’s the first time all season that he didn’t launch at least once from deep. Also, despite scoring double digits he shot just 30% (3-10) inside the arc. The biggest complaint I keep hearing is that too often he drives for the jump stop instead of driving for the basket. The hesitation in his offensive game hasn’t gone away, but the good news is he’s still finding ways to positively impact the game. At this point, I have faith that the fifth year senior will work it out and get his shot back to where it once was.

The Front Court is... a weapon?

For anyone not familiar, kenpom.com awards one player an MVP designation after each game. It goes to the player who does for the most for their team, and they’re generally on the winning side. In twelve games Villanova has been awarded eight MVP performances. It’s certainly not surprising that the player with the most for the Wildcats is Collin Gillespie with three. What may surprise some is the two way tie for second between Eric Dixon and Brandon Slater, each with two a piece.

Dixon continues to impress as he grows into his role this season. His most recent MVP performance came against Xavier when he put up 15 points and 8 rebounds to help secure the victory. The coaching staff clearly trusts him and is looking for ways to get him the ball in the post for offensive opportunities. He was relatively quiet against Seton Hall because they tried to guard against fouls to their big man by denying the post and opening up opportunities to the guards and wings. But make no doubt about it, Dixon is a big part of how Villanova wants to be successful this year.

Slater, the MVP of the Seton Hall win, continues to be a jack of all trades. He shot over 60% from the floor in a 17 point and 7 rebound performance. He also tacked on two assists and a steal, staying aggressive on both sides of the court. For Villanova to find success this year they needed someone to step up and play above expectations. Slater has been that man. And while his insane three point shooting seems to have cooled off for now, he remains a dynamic weapon inside with the ability to drive and finish or pull up from mid-range.

Yes, things are starting to take shape for the Wildcats. Their next challenge comes in the home revenge game against Creighton this week, so we’ll see just how much this team has changed since their most recent loss. I think it’s all been for the better.

In other news, all your coverage of the win over Seton Hall, Ryan Arcidiacono signs with the Knicks, and COVID continues to be an obstacle for Big East play. Enjoy!

Villanova defeats Seton Hall

Villanova survives at Seton Hall | The Inquirer
Bryan Antoine's return to meaninful minutes is a big key for Villanova.

VIDEO: No. 22 Villanova Takes Down No. 15 Seton Hall | CBS Sports HQ
CBS Sports HQ published this video item, entitled "No. 22 Villanova Takes Down No. 15 Seton Hall | College Basketball Full Game Recap | CBS Sports HQ" - below

No. 22 Villanova edges short-handed No. 15 Seton Hall 73-67 | AP News
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Villanova coach Jay Wright isn't a big fan of playing on New Year's Day. It takes away from celebrating the night before and facing a tough and physical Seton Hall is never fun, even when they are shorthanded.

Villanova has all the answers in win over Seton Hall | New York Post
Every time Seton Hall seemed poised to take over, or go ahead for good, Villanova was there with its championship muscle memory, refusing to let this game get away.

No. 15 Pirates Drop BIG EAST Slugfest To No. 22 Villanova, 73-67 | Seton Hall University Athletics
Graduate student Bryce Aiken (Randolph, N.J.) had a team-high 22 points, including 19 in the second half, but the No. 15 Seton Hall men's basketball team fell to

#22 Wildcats Start New Year With 73-67 Win At #15 Seton Hall | villanovan.com
NEWARK, N.J. — In its first game action in 11 days, Villanova showed no rust, opening up its New Year’s Day game against 15th-ranked Seton Hall on an 11-2 run

Wildcats Outlast No. 15 Seton Hall 73-67 | Villanova University
Moore's big jumper in the final 100 seconds proved decisive

Villanova Men’s Basketball

Tom Brady’s new clothing line launches Jan. 12 | Boston.com
The brand’s first launch drops next month, and the latest campaign photos feature top college athletes dressed in BRADY. Line includes Villanova's Jermaine Samuels.

Ranking the Most Dominant Men's College Basketball Programs Since 2010 | Bleacher Report
Villanova at #6 ... LOLZ.

Here's where recent national champions were ranked on January 1 | NCAA.com
Let's project forward to the 2022 NCAA Tournament by looking back at recent national champions and where they stood on Jan. 1.

NBA Wildcats

NBA 75: Pitchin' Paul Arizin, the Hall of Famer you might not know | Sporting News
Philadelphia Warriors scoring wiz and perennial All-Star Paul Arizin was one of the NBA's top players of the 1950s, The Sporting News asserted in 1959.

Ex-Villanova star Ryan Arcidiacono to sign 10-day deal with Knicks | New York Post
The decimated Knicks plan to sign G-League point guard Ryan Arcidiacono to a 10-day contract as a replacement player, according to a source. The move will be announced Monday.

NBA: Is Villanova's Saddiq Bey now a power forward for Detroit Pistons? | Piston Powered
Saddiq Bey has been a wing but he has been a rebounding machine while almost all of the Detroit Pistons bigs out of action. Is he a power forward now?

Donte DiVincenzo's tough start for Milwaukee Bucks just got more difficult | Behind The Buck Pass
After recently making his season debut for the Milwaukee Bucks after a long road to recovery, Donte DiVincenzo suffered an ankle sprain recently.

Detroit Pistons stun Spurs, 117-116 (OT), on Saddiq Bey 3-pointer | Detroit Free Press
Saddiq Bey drained a tough 3-pointer with two defenders on him with 1.9 seconds to help the Detroit Pistons snap a four-game skid.

Big East

Big East Conference is loaded with NCAA Tournament teams, but they can’t get on the court because of COVID-19 | nj.com
Half a dozen Big East basketball games, including two of Seton Hall's, have already been postponed or canceled due to COVID-19.

Seton Hall’s unvaccinated players will escape Newark’s vaccination mandate: No Kyrie Irving situation for Pirates | nj.com
Newark will require proof of vaccination at sporting venues and other public spaces beginning Jan. 10. What does that mean for Seton Hall's players?

Villanova Women’s Basketball

VILLANOVA EARNS HARD FOUGHT 70-68 WIN OVER ST. JOHN’S | Villanova University
VILLANOVA, PA. – The Villanova Wildcats finished off a 2-0 BIG EAST weekend on Sunday afternoon with a thrilling 70-68 win over the visiting St. John's Red Storm.