Seven months ago as we were ramping up for the 2017-18 season, I went out on a limb and made some bold predictions. Eleven to be exact, one for every scholarship player on the team. I stressed that these were BOLD predictions, and that they probably wouldn’t be true. However, I did say that if these ended up coming to fruition, it would be one hell of a season.
Well one hell of a season later, Villanova has another National Championship under its belt. I’m not saying I called it, but I am saying that I came pretty darn close on some of these predictions. I even got one 100% correct! So as a nice bookend to the 2017-2018 season, lets take a look back and see how right (or very, very wrong) I was.
Jalen Brunson will not lead Villanova in scoring this season
The logic on this one was that Villanova point guards have traditionally been more facilitators than leading scorers in Jay Wright’s system. What’s more, with so many weapons on this team I thought it was far more likely that he’d lead the team in assists than in scoring.
Well the NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR proved me wrong by doing both! Brunson isn’t just one of the best point guards Villanova has ever had, he’s one of the best players to ever come through the Main Line. So happy to be wrong on this one!
Phil Booth will finish in the team’s Top 4 for Total Rebounds
Booth finished this year 6th on the team in total rebounds after missing seven games with a broken hand. If we looked at his per game stats instead, he still only finishes in 5th place. Basically, even if he hadn’t gotten injured he probably gets edged out by DiVincenzo for the fourth spot.
The idea was that Booth was going to be the “do it all” guy this season. He still was that, especially on defense. But collectively the group of forwards and semi-forwards on this team really stepped up on the boards. Villanova was only out-rebounded in 11 of their 40 games this season, and only one of those came in the post-season. While this bold prediction didn’t come true, Booth did lead all players under 6’5 in rebounding for the season, so that’s something!
Eric Paschall will finish Top 3 in Scoring and Rebounding
I’m going to give myself partial credit on this one. Paschall did finish 3rd on the team in rebounds both per game (5.3) and total (200). However, he came up short on the scoring end, finishing 5th in points per game (10.6) behind Donte DiVincenzo (13.4) who finished 3rd.
I may have been a year early on this prediction, as Paschall should find himself in a primary scoring role next season. He averaged more than a point above his season average in this year’s post-season, including a 24-point breakout game in the Final Four against Kansas. Paschall will be one of the many reasons that Villanova will be in contention for the title again next season.
Mikal Bridges will improve all his major per game stats
Rebounds, up. Blocks, up. Scoring, WAY UP. But this season Bridges went from 2 to 1.9 assists per game and from 1.7 to 1.5 steals per game. SO CLOSE!
With his increased minutes, Bridges did improve his totals in all five categories for a second straight season. He truly is a remarkable player worthy of being a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft. The numbers indicate that he’s going to have a long and productive NBA career, and the mock drafts indicate that career could start in Philly. Here’s hoping the hometown hero will be able to make it to plenty of Nova games next season, even if it’s just as a fan!
Donte DiVincenzo will win MVP of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament
Right award, wrong tournament. While it was Brunson who ended up being crowned as the MVP in Atlantis, DiVincenzo’s 31-point performance in the National Title game earned him the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
But unlike Atlantis, winning MOP of the Final Four churns up some immediate NBA draft buzz. While that seems to have cooled a bit for now (at least until any official declarations have been made), DiVincenzo does have a decision to make about where he’ll be next season. If he goes to the draft, he’s likely a high to mid second round pick. If he comes back, he’s the number one scoring option on a National Championship caliber team. The odds are that he returns, and if he does his draft stock could easily rise into the mid to late first round for 2019.
Omari Spellman will average over nine rebounds per game
The idea behind this projection was the Spellman was going to do better on the boards than any big Jay Wright had coached previously. Well, that was kind of correct. Spellman led the Wildcats with 8.0 rebounds per game this season, bringing down 321 total.
While that may have been shy of the predicted 9 per game, it set the record for most rebounds per game and total rebounds by a freshman in Villanova history. He also finished 4th all time for rebounds in a player’s first year behind Jim Mooney (451), Howard Porter (376), and Jim Washington (354). That’s Villanova rebounding royalty right there, and Spellman is now a part of it.
Tim Delaney will play in at least half the games this season
BANG! Tim Delaney played in 21 of Villanova’s 40 games this season. He never saw more than 10 minutes in any one game, and most of his PT came in mop up duty. But despite the medical setbacks he faced in previous seasons, your boy was still out there playing hard, tough Villanova basketball. I’d love to call out all the haters who doubted I’d get this call right. But outside of one comment that he’d transfer to Quinnipiac with Dunleavy, you all believed in Timmy as much as I did!
The highlight of Delaney’s season came in the closing minutes of Villanova’s Round 2 blow-out of Alabama in the NCAA Tournament. With this shot, Delaney has now hit at least one three in each of his seasons playing at Villanova.
Dylan Painter will win the team’s Most Improved Player award
Technically I could be right about this one as the award hasn’t been handed out yet. But it would be fairly unlikely for a Red Shirt player to win it given the leaps and bounds we’ve seen from some of his teammates. For the first time since 2013 when Daniel Ochefu and Mouphtaou Yarou were on the team, Villanova will have two guys on the team that even loosely fit into the “center” description.
It might be scary to think, but Villanova could actually get bigger next year and still have three point shooters at every position. Painter can knock it down from deep, despite the 0-3 attempts in his freshman season. With more playing time and confidence, Painter can be a consistent role player for this team next season.
Jermaine Samuels will have at least two double-doubles this season
It was a tough start to the season for Samuels. The kid clearly has all the heart in the world, it just took him longer to pick up the speed of the college game than his peers. The closest he came to a double-double was against DePaul, scoring 11 points and grabbing 3 rebounds. It looked like things were finally clicking for him and that he could fill in for Gillespie who had just broken his hand. But of course, in practice the next day Samuels also broke his hand, and that was the end of his major contributions for the season.
Despite not doing much offensively after his return from injury (not that the Wildcats needed much help there), Samuels showed a lot of promise on the boards. In “per 40 minute” stats last season, which project out how a player would have done had they played the entire game, Samuels finished 3rd on the team in rebounding behind Spellman and Dahmir Cosby-Roundtree. Villanova saw guys stepping up into bigger roles this past season, and Samuels is a prime candidate to do just that in 2018-19.
Collin Gillespie will finish Top 5 on the team in assists per game
I admittedly gave myself a pretty big target to hit with this one, and I still came up short. Gillespie finished 6th on the year in assists per game (1.1), almost a full assist shy of Mikal Bridges in 5th. I forgot just how great this team can be at sharing the ball!
But this is another case where the future looks bright for Villanova basketball. Gillespie might only have been held back by his minutes, as his per 40 stats placed him 4th on the team in assists. That only trailed Brunson, Booth, and DiVincenzo, so the freshman is right on track to step into a bigger role next season.
Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree is going to come up big late in the season
I’m going to go ahead and take partial credit for this one too. There was no “break-out” performance like Darryl Reynolds had against Providence in 2016, but DCR accomplished a lot in his rookie season.
First off, he’s one of only five players that played in every game this season. In 40 games, he averaged over 11 minutes per game and had the highest field goal percentage of any scholarship player (77.9%). In the Elite 8 game against Texas Tech, he pulled down 7 boards and hit four free throws in key moments to help Villanova extend and maintain their lead.
What we saw this season is that Cosby-Roundtree has all the basic building blocks you want in a young big man. He’s already contributing as a role player, and should be able to contribute more next year despite the front-court getting even deeper.