This year's preseason was full of talk about potential. The potential of a Top 10 Villanova Wildcats team to have another 30+ win season. The potential of 5-star freshman Jalen Bruson, who was making waves before he even got on campus. The potential of the Sophomore and Junior classes stepping up out of supporting roles to stardom. The potential of a return to the Final Four.
The one area that potential wasn't addressed was with the Wildcats' Seniors, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. A big reason for this was that they had already achieved more than some do in an entire college career. Arch was coming off a co-Big East Player of the Year award and Ochefu had expanded his game, taking a huge step forward offensively. Now, after having career seasons, they were both expected to be leaders of an improving team. They had reached the summit of their potential and were now going to be the rocks on a very talented team.
But two games into the new season, one thing is abundantly clear. Last season was just another step up the mountain. These Seniors are now reaching a level that many fans didn't expect them to get to. This is the type of play that Jay would say they could achieve when he met with them in their living rooms as high-school kids. The only way I have to describe what I'm seeing is truly beautiful basketball.
Let's start with Ochefu, who is rapidly becoming the Beast of the Big East. His ever expanding repertoire of post-moves now includes a face-up shot fake and fade away. He knows when to drive, when to back defenders down, and when to pass out of a double team. He isn't just simply not making mistakes, he's creating scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. And on top of that, he's dominating the offensive glass. The competition hasn't been on par with what he'll see when conference play rolls around, but his rebounding efforts have been simply spectacular.
On the defensive end of the court, Ochefu is THE reason the Wildcats can play the aggressive, swarming defense they've become known for. Because his teammates have confidence that he's there to help at the rim should they get beat, they're able to be more aggressive and take chances on defense. So far this season, we're seeing those chances pay off. And when they don't, we're seeing Ochefu make them pay for coming into his paint. If you thought his offensive rebounding was great, forget trying to get a defensive rebound away from him. All in all, Daniel Ochefu is the axle that the Villanova wheel spins around. I'll preface this by saying I'm only 30, I didn't become a fan until the late 90's, and it's a small sample size, but this Senior campaign by Ochefu is the best Center play I've ever seen at Nova.
And that brings me to Ryan Arcidiacono. No player has ever epitomized what these "stat-free" articles are about like he has this season. I wouldn't be shocked if Arch doesn't lead Villanova in any stat category this season. That doesn't matter. What matters is that I've never seen a player so determined to get a win in every game he plays in. And he doesn't care how he makes it happen. He shoots, he passes, he hustles, he rebounds, he fouls, HE POSTS UP! He knows when to play with poise and when to lash out with unbridled aggression. He's a smarter player than almost everyone he goes up against. He knows he's not the most athletic player on the court and there's no way in hell he cares one bit.
On offense, Arch has perfected his mid-range jumper. If he can get one foot in the paint it feels like the ball's going in. And when he's not driving into the paint, now he's posting up in it. While that may not work against the bigger guards in the Big East, this shows the mentality that Arch has this season. That mentality has been infectious to other players on the team early on, and it's simply this: I don't care if you're bigger, stronger, or even better than me, I'm going to beat you.
That same mentality spills over to the defensive end of the court. Jay has made it clear that when there are multiple point guards on the floor, Arch will be the one matching up against the bigger players. Villanova's Coach has the confidence in his leader that even when he's out muscled, he won't be out played. And again, while the competition hasn't been outstanding, Arcidiacono looks like he's gained another gear on defense and hasn't been the liability we thought he might be.
This team is full of potential, and will only get better as the season goes on. But let's not let the excitement of that potential overshadow the truly amazing efforts that these Senior co-captains are putting on display for us. This is where we want all of those players with potential to end up. I can't say how far these Seniors can take us this season, but one thing is for sure. This is potential realized, and it's beautiful.