Villanova dominated Northwood (FL) on Tuesday night 93-50 at the Pavilion in a game mostly put together to honor the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Villanova National Championship team, coached by Rollie Massimino. Rollie now plies his trade for the NAIA Northwood program, and it was clear from the outset that his team was severely overmatched against Jay Wright's 12th-ranked Wildcats.
The 'Cats opened the game with a ton of energy, forcing Northwood in to several turnovers and converting easy buckets to jump out to a big lead. The returning starters - Ryan Arcidiacono, Hilliard, Pinkston and Ochefu - were buoyed by new starter Dylan Ennis and looked every bit the Big East frontrunner that every media outlet has made them out to be.
It was just an exhibition game (there's another against Nyack on Sunday), but it's hard not to be encouraged by what transpired on the Main Line.
1. Darrun Hilliard will be the best player on the court quite often this season
From the opening tip it was apparent to anyone watching that Hilliard was amped to play and back up his own talk that he is the Big East's best player. Hilliard led all scorers with 20 points and was dominant on both ends of the court. I honestly don't remember him putting a foot wrong.
It's been a while since Villanova had a bonafide star to carry the torch (and you could argue they have two with JayVaughn Pinkston). Hilliard is that guy, and the Wildcats will go where he takes them this year. If tonight was any indication, they will go far.
2. Daniel Ochefu and Dylan Ennis look much better
For the second straight summer, the preseason hype has been focused squarely on Dylan Ennis. And on Tuesday night, he lived up to it. Ennis was a menace on defense, and attacked the glass relentlessly. He even made a 3. He's never been short on confidence or talent, and if he puts those two together he has take-over-the-game ability while defenses key in on the 'Nova stars.
Meanwhile, Ochefu looked more confident and active than ever before, finishing the night with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Better yet, he paired that energy and improved physique with a clear knowledge of Villanova's offensive and defensive schemes. He's never going to be the focal point of the team, but as long as he can impact the game on defense, convert his offensive attempts and most importantly avoid turnovers, he's doing his job.
3. Villanova has depth, but Jay Wright might not use it
It's tough to read too much in to an exhibition game, but Jay Wright's preferred rotation was pretty glaring. Dylan Ennis got the start, Josh Hart was quickly the 6th man, and Kris Jenkins was in before too long. Almost 8 minutes had ticked off the clock (and Villanova had built a 25-point lead) before we saw Phil Booth, Darryl Reynolds, and Mikal Bridges.
Phil Booth is likely too good not to play, and Reynolds certainly looks like he's ready to contribute more frequently. There's a lot to like about Bridges too, especially defensively as he had a team-high 4 blocks. But Wright mostly rolled with a 7-man veteran group for 2009's Final 4 run; it wouldn't be a surprise to see him lean heavily on the experienced players during a tough out-of-conference schedule.