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The Sun’s Arizin: Villanova Basketball’s “Starting Six” for 2023

It’s time to start everyone’s favorite post season tradition, talking about next season.

Villanova Mug Arizin Links

Happy Monday Nova Nation! Saturday marked the end of Villanova’s 2022 season, and by the end of the night the sun will have set on all of college basketball. But every end marks a new beginning, and in the world of college basketball that means talking about next season. Yes, there will also be plenty of reflection on the season that was, but for now let’s at least start the discussion.

First off, Justin Moore’s injury will be the story that hangs over the entire offseason and potentially all of 2023. A full year of recovery time isn’t uncommon for an achilles tear, so for now we’re going to air on the side of caution and assume he won’t be available at least for the start of the year.

Second, there are a few players up in the air for return. Slater and Daniels still have their year of COVID eligibility, but they could decide to explore pro options. And of course the transfer portal is a much bigger part of today’s game. But until we know anything more, we’ll assume everyone who can return will return.

Lastly, there’s already speculation that Villanova may be looking at the transfer portal to bring in some additional help at guard. One name floated around has been Jaelin Llewellyn from Princeton. Nothing’s set in stone yet, so today we’ll just be looking at current members of the team.

So with that in mind, let’s go position by position and figure out who the most likely candidates are to take over the six most important spots on Villanova’s roster.

Point Guard

No one is going to be able to just replace Collin Gillespie. There’s a good chance that with Moore going down this becomes a bit of a point guard by committee as the coach staff figures out the strengths and weaknesses of all their options. But there will still be one guy starting with the ball in their hands.

Caleb Daniels - Daniels is the only guard with significant lead guard experience returning for next season. The problem is that Daniels is that while he’s an excellent scorer and defender, he doesn’t create for others the way a Villanova point guard needs to. Daniels had a team low 7.4 assist rate in 2022. For context, Gillespie’s assist rate was 20.2 and Moore’s was 14.2. Before Moore went down, he was slotted to take over the starting shooting guard role. That’s likely still the best spot for him, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Chris Arcidiacono - Speaking of assist rate, at 11.9 Arch had the third best rate on the team after Gillespie and Moore. While Arch is an above average shooter and has a great Basketball IQ, he lacks dynamic athleticism and play making ability. He’s exactly the type of player you want as your second or third option off the bench, but not as your lead ball handler.

Angelo Brizzi - Brizzi was a non-medical redshirt for the 2022 season, but we’ve seen that formula pay off big time with other players that needed a season to adapt physically to the next level. Eric Dixon and Mikal Bridges are the two most recent examples of players taking that optional year to develop, and I don’t think anyone would argue with their results. Brizzi was a 3-Star combo guard coming out of high school, but did have offers from other elite programs like Arizona and Michigan. Given that he’s had a year in the program he may have the best shot of stepping into the starting lineup as the “next man up” after Moore.

Mark Armstrong - Armstrong is the big wild card in this equation. While fans like to claim Jay doesn’t play freshmen, that’s simply not the case if they’re physically ready and pick up Villanova’s systems quickly. From high school highlight films (and take those for what they’re worth), Armstrong does look like he’d be ready to step up to the next level physically pretty quickly. As for the mental aspect, we won’t know until he gets on campus.

Prediction: Caleb Daniels - Daniels has shown great improvement every season, and given his size and skill set creating for others will be something he needs at the pro level. As Villanova’s #2 option next year this would have been something he’d be working on anyway, now it just becomes all the more important. Plus, Jay trusts Daniels to step up and take over this role, just as much as he would have trusted Moore.

Shooting Guard

With Moore out and our prediction moving Daniels to the point, there’s a wide array of options here. Because I expect Nova to look for more scoring out of its front line this season, this position may have more of a focus on defense than it has in the past.

Chris Arcidiacono - If Arch is going to break into the starting lineup, this spot makes much more sense. He still brings ball handling skills, but now has more use as a spot up shooter and can still apply all his knowledge of Villanova basketball. The athletic drawbacks still apply though, and they will for any non-bench role he’s considered for.

Bryan Antoine - If Antoine can finally have a summer where he stays healthy and has time to develop, he may be the primary option to step into this role. We haven’t seen his shooting touch come to fruition yet, but trust us it’s there. His defensive speed is a huge asset, now it just needs to be paired with better decision making and playing within the system. All the tools are there for this kid, and this may finally be his opportunity to go to work.

Jordan Longino - Before his season ending knee surgery, Longino had worked his way to the top of the bench mob. He was consistently the first player called into the game (after Daniels of course), and started seeing more minutes later in the season as well. Longino was the definition of an “energy guy” bring a spark off the bench defensively and knocking down shots from inside and outside the arc within the flow of the offense. After Chris Arcidiacono, Longino probably has the most trust from the coaching staff of this group.

Angelo Brizzi - Brizzi could be an option for many of the reasons stated above. Especially if Wright decides his lack of a true point guard necessitates multiple ball handlers on the court at once. If Brizzi starts anywhere I still think it’s at point guard, but this could be an option if he can show he has that skill set.

Mark Armstrong - See Above.

Brendan Hausen - Hausen was a proven scorer in high school, and he’s the only pure shooting guard brought in as a part of the 2022 class. But until you get on campus and have your first “Villanova practice”, it’s hard to say how ready any of the freshman class truly is. I’d love to see Hausen surprise out the gate, but he’s actually my candidate for “most likely to redshirt” next year.

Prediction: Bryan Antoine - I’ll fully admit this is the option I’m least confident about. I can easily see Jay and the staff going with the experience option in Arch, or continuing the development of Longino. But if the stars align and Antoine can finally take that next step, he’s a next level athlete compared to Arch, and he shouldn’t be limited to start the summer the way Longino will be coming off the surgery. Fingers crossed everybody.

Small Forward

Brandon Slater - Slater started in this role last season, and is still clearly Nova’s best option at the position. The real question is one that Nova had to face in 2019 with Eric Paschall. Is the team better moving him to a larger position if that’s what allows them to put their five best guys on the floor? Basically, the only way I see Slater losing this job is if he’s simply sliding into a different starting role.

Jordan Longino - A lot of people thought Longino may have been able to play in the Final Four based on the way he was moving on the court during open practice with the team. But no, that was never going to be the case. That said, it was an excellent sign that his recovery was on schedule and that he may not miss much time that could be used for development over the summer. Longino has played this role off the bench and the staff trusts him, he could very well be the next to step up.

Cam Whitmore - After his eye popping performance in the McDonald’s All-American game, even I was wondering how quickly we can get this guy onto the court. Everything I hear about his size, athleticism, work ethic, and commitment tells me this won’t be another five star that just sits on the bench their first year. According to 247 Sports, Whitmore is the 5th best recruit EVER under Jay Wright, sandwiched between Omari Spellman and Jalen Brunson. That’s good company to be in.

Prediction: Jordan Longino - Really the reason I didn’t pick Longino for the shooting guard spot is because I already had him pencilled in at small forward. He’s shown he can defend, he’s shown he can score, and he’s shown that he’s progressing from the injury. Too much to like about this guy not to get him on the floor. All of that said, I give Whitmore a 20% chance of blowing everyone’s socks off and claiming this spot by the time we reach November.

Power Forward

Brandon Slater - Like I said above, the only way I don’t give the small forward role back to Slater is if we shift him to power forward. At least early on, I think that’s going to be the plan for Nova. Yes I’m still going to talk about the other options, but the job is Slater’s.

Trey Patterson - Given that he joined the team mid-2021 season, everyone was expecting to see a lot more from Trey Patterson this year. Jay would mention him as the 8th or 9th man in the rotation, but rarely ever went that far down the bench. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been improving, it just means he wasn’t able to reach the level of Slater, Samuels, and Dixon. With Samuels leaving, there’s going to be a need for size and speed on the interior, and Patterson has an excellent shot of moving up to one of the first guys off the bench.

Prediction: Brandon Slater

Center

Eric Dixon - Will start at center.

Nnanna Njoku - Like Patterson, Njoku will have a great opportunity to see increased minutes off the bench this year as one of only three players 6’8” or taller. It also takes big men a little bit longer to develop, especially when faced with some of the setbacks Njoku had early on. The good news is that Dixon gives him an excellent role model to learn from, as well as the cushion to not need to be thrown into the fire as he continues to learn.

Prediction: Eric Dixon

Sixth Man

I’ve already written about everyone on the team next year, so eliminating the players I already predicted as starters, here are the top options for sixth man:

  • Chris Arcidiacono
  • Trey Patterson
  • Angelo Brizzi
  • Mark Armstrong
  • Cam Whitmore

Prediction: Brizzi/Whitmore - Remember how the 2016 team didn’t really have a sixth man? Instead they had the combo first sub of both Booth and Bridges. I could easily see something similar to that happening early in the 2023 season when Nova is still figuring everything out. You’ll need more ball handlers, and Brizzi fits that mold. You need energy and talent off the bench, and Whitmore has that in bunches. At this point, we haven’t really seen much of anyone on that list except Arch, and I still believe his best contribution is as the 8th man.

Are these mostly guess based on what I hope will happen and taking the optimistic approach that everyone takes a step forward? Absolutely. But heck, that’s what the Way-Too-Early Offseason is for. If not now, when?

In other news...

Kansas defeats Villanova

Kansas Runs Past Villanova to Get to the NCAA Final | The New York Times
The Jayhawks took a 10-0 lead in the opening minutes and never trailed. They will play the winner of the Duke-North Carolina game on Monday night for the national championship.

Villanova seniors get emotional after Final Four loss to Kansas (video) | Sports Illustrated
The Wildcats were eliminated after an 81–65 loss to the Jayhawks on Saturday night.

Outlook For Villanova Following Loss To Kansas | CBSSports.com
Avery Johnson and Tim Doyle discuss what is next for Villanova following their loss to Kansas in the Final Four

Final Four 2022: Villanova's season over after loss to Kansas, but Jay Wright might be new top active coach | CBSSports.com
With the end of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's career, Wright may have the best resume of any current coach

Villanova news: Wildcats all-time great Collin Gillespie tearfully exits Final Four game vs. Kansas | Clutch Points
Villanova's Collin Gillespie tearfully exited the Wildcats' Final Four loss against Kansas in Saturday's March Madness affair

Villanova Men’s Basketballl

Why Villanova’s ‘GQ Jay’ Wright Didn’t Pack His Suits for the Final Four | WSJ
Two years after coaches went casual for the pandemic, college basketball’s best-dressed leader still hasn’t returned to stylish form.

Villanova point guard Collin Gillespie wins Bob Cousy Award | The Inquirer
Gillespie is the second Wildcat to win the award in five seasons, after Jalen Brunson won the award in 2018.

Attitude: Inside the Mantra That Got ‘Nova to New Orleans | The Villanovan
NEW ORLEANS— On Apr. 4, 2016, with 4.7 seconds left on the clock, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit a three that many thought would go down as one of the most clutch shots in March Madness history. A shot to tie the National Championship game. A shot that should cause the opposing team to panic....

Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels leave a legacy at Villanova that will be hard to match | Delco Times
Villanova coach Jay Wright was the first person to greet guard Collin Gillespie as he came off the floor with 35 seconds left in what ended up as an 81-65 loss to Kansas in the national semifinal at the Superdome in New Orleans Saturday night.

The Road Ends Here: Samuels and Gillespie’s Final Weekend in Villanova Jerseys | The Villanovan
NEW ORLEANS — The signs are everywhere in New Orleans. They’re impossible to miss. If someone didn’t know that the Final Four was here this weekend, that the National Championship would be held in the Superdome on Monday night, one slogan makes it blatantly clear. The Road Ends Here. Few things are certain in the...

NBA Wildcats

Kyle Lowry given standing ovation at first game back in Toronto (video) | Sports Illustrated
The Heat point guard was given a warm welcome by his former team’s fanbase.

Big East

Ed Cooley Named Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year, Second Active Big East Coach to Win Award | Big East Coast Bias
Cooley becomes second active Big East coach to win award

Villanova Athletics

Second half defense guides ‘Cats to win over St. Francis | Villanova University
VILLANOVA, Pa. – After getting through the first half with a two-goal lead, Villanova's defense powered up in the second half, allowing just two goals in a 13-8

Timely knocks, lockdown defense get ‘Cats past Georgetown | Villanova University
WALDORF, Md. – Five Wildcats tallied an RBI while the defense held down the Georgetown bats with just four hits to avoid a BIG EAST-opening sweep, taking down Georgetown

Stuba sets single-season points, shots mark in win over Siena | Villanova University
VILLANOVA, Pa. – Kaysie Stuba made numerous record book moves as Villanova sailed to a 13-4 victory over Siena at the Villanova Swim Complex on Sunday morning.

Golf Set to Compete in the Columbia Spring Invitational | Villanova University
On Monday, the Villanova golf team will compete in the Columbia Spring Invitational at the Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa. The Wildcats will be one of

Distance Runners Have Success at Sam Howell Invitational | Villanova University
PRINCETON, N.J.—Three distance runners in the 5000 meters each posted top-four times on this year's BIG EAST leaderboard and Villanova tallied three event wins at

Grinnell Leads Three Javelin Throwers at Florida Relays | Villanova University
GAINESVILLE, Fla.—After a postponement due to severe weather one night earlier, Villanova got a busy weekend started with competition in the men's javelin on the