Since the official announcements that both Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman will remain in the NBA Draft, a fair question has been posed about Villanova’s prospects for continued success next season.
Can they replace 4 of their top 6 players? And are the underclassmen ready to step up into bigger roles? The media landscape seems to be split.
Some believe there’s no reason to doubt the Villanova machine (shouts to Reags and Rob Dauster), while others think this is still a very good team, but not a title contender (totally fair, Gary Parrish). And sorry Mike Jensen, but why are you jumping off the bandwagon?!
All of this does raise a good point, however. Next season’s Villanova Wildcats will sink or swim on a very different recipe. Replacing this much production is a new challenge for Jay Wright
Jay Wright and his staff have (rightfully) seen praise heaped upon them for their player development. Staying old, and only losing 1-2 graduating players each year has afforded them the ability to bring their younger players along slowly, and turn them into college basketball’s superstars when they reach elder statesmen status.
Established superstars Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were supposed to leave this season. Villanova was prepared for this.
Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman had next. Now they’ll be earning a paycheck in the NBA.
Can Phil Booth and Eric Paschall be those guys? Maybe. I’d argue that it is even probable given what they’ve already shown to be capable of. Not to mention Wright’s penchant for turning role players into All-Big East and All-American caliber players.
But the bigger question is whether all those underclassmen are ready for the roles that will be demanded of them.
As Matt Norlander smartly points out, history is not on Villanova’s side here. Past the Seniors, it is a pretty big group of question marks. Talented question marks, but question marks nonetheless.
“Really, we’ve got two proven guys returning,’’ Villanova’s coach said, mentioning starters Phil Booth and Eric Paschall.
I’ll admit, it is enough to give me pause. They might be two years away from being contenders again, but are you really willing to bet against Jay Wright and his staff’s ability to develop players?
That’s what started this dynasty in the first place.
As Brendan recently pointed out, next year’s roster is still experienced and loaded with talent. And Jay Wright remains the GOAT when it comes to developing that talent. Now he gets his biggest project yet, having to grow it all a little quicker than he probably would have liked.
There will be bumps and bruises. The early trip to Phog Allen Fieldhouse could be ugly. But by the time we’re in the throws of conference season, I expect this team will be looking down the barrel at a Top-4 seed and another Big East Championship.
Maybe next year’s team won’t be National Championship-good. I certainly don’t expect them to be.
(Counter-point: I have also have watched not 1 but 2 UConn teams that were less talented than this Villanova roster cut down the nets this decade.)
But to think of next season as a step back is foolish. Rather, next year feels like a side-step on Villanova’s continued mission of dominance in college basketball.