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Three Things to Watch: Villanova Wildcats vs. USC Trojans Exhibition Game

Friday Night Lights!

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not November yet, but we are getting some college basketball a few weeks early. Although it’s an exhibition, it’s all for a good cause, with proceeds going to the California Fire Foundation, which provides assistance to families of firefighters--alive or deceased--and the communities they protect.

Also, it’ll be more competitive action than an inter-squad scrimmage, giving us possibly a better look at the Villanova Wildcats progress thus far.

The Wildcats will head out west to take on the USC Trojans, who finished last season 16-17. Here are three things to watch for in Friday night’s scrimmage, which tips off at 11 p.m. ET:

More of Moore

With no Collin Gillespie (nose) and Bryan Antoine (shoulder), freshman guard Justin Moore has been named the starter for Friday night. Overall, the freshmen will be under the magnifying glass, for sure, but we’ll get a really good look at Moore going against live competition. Moore looked solid in the Blue-White Scrimmage, and his veteran teammates tabbed him as a player to watch for this season. Playmaker minutes and depth is limited in general, but even more so with Antoine out. Gillespie should be back by the time the regular season rolls around, so this will be a great opportunity to get Moore reps and really examine what he can do on a basketball court--outside of three 10-minutes scrimmages. Adding on to this, this will mean more minutes for Chris Arcidiacono on Friday and while it was fun to see Saddiq Bey go point-forward mode, will that be a feature Jay Wright utilizes or just in emergency situations and pre-season fun?

Sophomore Progression

There’s no doubt there will be curiosity surrounding the freshmen and what they can immediately provide, and there’s already knowledge more-or-less of what to expect from the veterans, but how about the sophomores that didn’t get to play much last season? They saw limited action, but how have they developed with being in the system for a year? Cole Swider’s three-point stroke was on display at the Blue-White Scrimmage, while Brandon Slater showed glimpses of overall improvement but had to face off against the likes of Bey and Jermaine Samuels. Slater has the physical tools and athleticism, but now it’s just a matter of harnessing all of his talents and putting it together on the court. As for Swider, can he be that dependable three-point sniper and how is his lateral quickness and foot speed for defense looking?

Effects of Roster Turnover

Both Villanova and USC are putting out young squads and will have obstacles of inexperience to overcome this season. The Wildcats have six newcomers this season (five freshmen, one transfer). Outside of four players--Bey, Samuels, Collin Gillespie, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree--there isn’t a single returning player that averaged over 10 minutes per game last season. It’s hard to expect a team to establish an identity, develop chemistry, and be sound defensively, so there will be some understandable growing pains to navigate. It’ll be interesting to see how ‘Nova looks early, rotation-wise, while also keeping in mind that Gillespie and Antoine aren’t available.

As for the Trojans, they’re similar into Villanova in that they have a promising freshman class coming in and that they have a lot of spots to replace. USC is ushering in six freshmen and two graduate transfers for the 2019-20 season. Daniel Utomi (Akron) and Quinton Adlesh (Columbia) provide some experienced presences on the team, although they will only be there for one year. Five-star freshmen Isaiah Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu headline the Trojans’ freshmen class and should likely be immediate contributors, joining the Trojans’ returning core of Nick Rakocevic, Jonah Matthews, and Elijah Weaver. Rakocevic, a 6-11 forward, is the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder, averaging 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds. Matthews also averaged in double figures last season, with 12.6 points. Weaver, a former ‘Nova recruiting target, is now a sophomore point guard that got the third-most burn out of all returners. He will look to fill in a much-bigger role this season.