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The Sun’s Arizin: Breaking the “Unbreakable” Record

Collin Gillespie is about to play in more Villanova games than any player ever.

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Happy Wednesday Nova Nation! In 2016, Ryan Arcidiacono capped off one of the most storied careers in Villanova history. He came into the program on the heels of the first losing season under Jay Wright, and left as the Most Outstanding Player of the 2016 National Champions. Along the way he was named a team captain, and Big East Player of the Year. But there was one record he achieved that seemed to be the most fitting: Most Games Played.

It’s an impressive record to hold. It shows that you’ve been a contributing member to the team every year you’ve been on campus. It also requires longevity, so just being the best player and leaving early for the NBA doesn’t mean you get a shot at this title. It’s truly only going to be held by someone who made the most of their time at Villanova.

All of that said, the record is about to be broken. Oh, and it’s not like Arcidiacono even still has it. In fact, his reign on top lasted less than a year. However as before, it will go to another player that embodies everything it means to play for Villanova: Collin Gillespie.

Before we talk about Gillespie’s path here, let’s take a step back and look at how we got to this point.

The History Of The Games Played Record

We’re not going to review every stop along the way of this record, mostly because of the expansions to the schedule college basketball went through in the 80’s. But as you would suspect, those changes and the Wildcats 1985 title run led to stars Doug West and Gary Massey setting the record at 138 career games when they graduated in 1989.

That record would stand for 20 years until more schedule changes in the 2000’s and another Final Four run in 2009 would lead to another record holder. Dante Cunningham finished that Final Four with 139 career games, and he’d be joined a season later by his running mate, Scottie Reynolds.

Enter Ryan Arcidiacono and the start of one of the winningest runs in Villanova history. Arch set the new record at 144 after the 2016 Championship. However, it only stood for one season before Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins pushed it up to 146. At this point, it was thought it would be pretty hard for anyone to crack that number. Someone would have to average more than 36.5 games played over four seasons.

Enter Phil Booth. Or rather... Phil Booth was there the whole time. Booth was a Sophomore on the 2016 title team. Unfortunately, he suffered what ended up being a season ending injury in just the third game of his junior year, and ended up getting a medical redshirt. However, those three games he played still count. He’d go on to be a key part of the 2018 Championship team and the leader of the 2019 team. When it was all said and done, Booth had played in 148 games, the new unbreakable record.

Breaking the Unbreakable

Of course just one year later... COVID happened. And with it came an opportunity for players to not just break these games played records, but really put them out of reach. The NCAA gave all active players in the 2021 season an additional year of eligibility, and Collin Gillespie will be the first name on that list to try to lay claim to a record that could stay on the books for many years to come.

Despite the generally acceptance that the 2018 National Championship team was six elite guys, Gillespie actually averaged double digit minutes per game on that team. He even started a game that year. He’d go on to start every year since, and while he did have some injury setbacks, he’s on pace to break tie Phil Booth in Indianapolis this Saturday. He’ll officially break the record and continue to build on it with every post season game he plays.

An honorable mention for this first wave of breaking the record deserves to go to Jermaine Samuels. Samuels has just three fewer games played than Gillespie, and will likely end this season as #2 on the list. But this record doesn’t end with this pair of Super Seniors. We now have three more classes worth of players that have a shot at laying one final claim to the record.

The Future of the Record

Unlike some other records, performance doesn’t matter as much for this one. It just matters that you play in the game... and that the games happen. Let’s say “hoping” that next season finally sees the end of COVID cancelations, the chances of breaking this record become a little more predictable.

The maximum number of games that could be played by a Wildcat in a season are technically 42, although that requires very specific circumstances including participating in a larger early season tournament, and making the championship game of both your conference and NCAA tournaments. What’s more important for this record is the minimum number: 33. Of course, that assumes a birth in the NCAA Tournament, but that’s been a good bet for Nova over the last decade.

So that gives us our potential candidates for breaking the yet to be broken record. There’s a limited number of candidates just based on access to that 5th year of eligibility. We’re also limited by who has already played enough games to realistically catch Gillespie who will likely be somewhere in the 150’s. Here are the candidates:

Justin Moore - 84 career games

Moore’s going to add 4+ games this season, but anything he adds Gillespie does too. That means at the end of the year, Moore will still be 63 games behind the record. Given that he has two years of eligibility, barring injury he’d be almost assured to hit it. The real question is if Moore still has two years left on the main line. Moore will already be flirting with going pro this offseason, likely “testing the waters” with the NBA. But once he earns his degree and gets his senior season as THE GUY for the Wildcats, it’s anyone’s guess if he returns for a fifth season.

Eric Dixon - 50 career games

Surprisingly, due to his Red Shirt season and the potential COVID year, Dixon will still have three years of eligibility left after this year. Given how he’s played and that he’s already cracked the starting lineup, he’s more than setup for a run at the record. In fact, if he’s here through his full eligibility it’s practically a lock. The question again is how long can you hang on to a talented guy making the kind of leaps in play that Dixon is each season. Only time will tell.

Not going to make the cut:

  • Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree - Injuries robbed DCR at a run at the title.
  • Brandon Slater - Sitting at 99 games today, Slater just isn’t going to have enough chances.
  • Caleb Daniels - With just three seasons at Nova, even the extra year won’t give Daniels the time he needs.
  • Chris Arcidiacono - Arch 2.0 still has two seasons left, but he’s still too far behind already.
  • Bryan Antoine - Injuries derailed any chance Antoine had at the record.
  • Trey Patterson - Even with three more years of eligibility, it’s been too slow of a start.
  • Freshman Class - Longino, Njoku, and Brizzi all missed the cut on the extra COVID season.

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