It's summer! Time for sunshine, beaches, cook-outs, and bug bites. Or, as the world of college basketball sees it, that dead period filled with some recruiting, speculation, and fluff pieces. The big kick-off piece for anyone that covers the sport is the re-vised Too-Early Top 25 lists that just came out now that everyone has withdrawn or declared for the NBA draft. This season was no exception as I've just read through about 10 of them. So instead of just regurgitating their analysis, here's the Villanova angle on how next season's field is shaping up.
Villanova won't be underestimated this season
Many Villanova fans spent last season complaining, and justly so, that Nova wasn't really being given the credit they deserved. Even their 3 weeks as the #1 ranked team was shrugged off because of how many teams held that distinction last season. Well be careful what you wish for, because no one is overlooking the Cats now that Josh Hart is back. Villanova is a consensus Top 5 team, consistently ranking in the 2-4 range with the likes of Kentucky and Kansas. Almost every write up points out to some degree that the Wildcats could be the first team since Florida to make it to the Sweet 16 after their Championship run. Fitting that this will be the first time in recent memory that Nova will be expected to make it that far, if not further.
Duke is the favorite contender for Nova's National Title
A number of teams will be Championship contenders, but Duke will be the early frontrunner. It's still Nova's title to defend, but the blue devils will give them a hell of a run for their money. Not only do they bring in the best recruiting class, but they return their star player. Everyone loves to hate the Dukies, especially when they get favorable treatment. But don't let that stigma fool you, this team will live up to the Top 5 ranking.
Virginia and Purdue will highlight the Non-Conference
You might have known that these would be the big out of conference games, but even I will admit that I didn't realize how big these games might be. Virginia will enter the season somewhere in the Top 10, even without Malcolm Brogdon. Their mix of senior talent, a solid recruiting class, and an impact transfer (that line-up sure sounds familiar) should make them a contender in the ACC. After a closely contested game in Virginia last season, the rematch in Philly this year has a chance to be the best of the season.
Purdue had two players, Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards, decide to take their names out of the draft and now look to be a top contender in the Big Ten. The rankings have them consistently in the mid-teens, mostly due to that dominating front court. This will easily be Nova's most dificult road game of the non-conference.
Xavier will make another push for the Big East crown
For another straight season, it looks like Xavier will lead the pack of Big East teams looking to dethrone the Cats. Reynolds left early while Farr and Abell graduated, but they still have Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner to lead a more than capable supporting cast. Look for J.P. Macura and Myles Davis (wasn't he a senior like 3 years ago?) to step up in their roles and continue to play hardnosed, Big East basketball. They're going to be a Top 10 team again, and they'll probably still be there when conference play picks up.
Here comes Creighton... again
There are apparently some people out there that say Villanova, aka "Guard U", might not have the best Big East backcourt next season. Wha-wha-whaaaaat!?!? Before we all yell "Blasphemy!" in unison, I have to at least admit that Creighton's guards are going to be silly good when it comes to scoring next season. We already know about Philly's own Maurice Watson Jr. who lead the team in scoring last season. Now add Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster who lead those Wildcats in scoring both his freshman and sophomore seasons, and that's a powerful 1-2 punch. They're being ranked in the 20-25 range, and if they can improve defensively, they'll be another tough team come Big East play.