The Villanova Wildcats are a pretty hyped team heading into next season. Just think about it, they’re ranked in most preseason Top 15’s after finishing last season 23rd overall. All the buzz is that this team will be better than a squad that won both Big East Titles and then lost two NBA caliber seniors. That’s kind of crazy.
But at the same time, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this team IS better than the one we saw a year ago. You’ve got two rising juniors (Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels) coming off of impressive performances for Team USA. There’s another returning starter in Saddiq Bey that basketball analyst Jon Rothstein described this offseason as “a volcano ready to explode.” Add to that Cole Swider who showed improvement coming off injury last season and an elite freshman class including four Top 100 recruits. It’s not hard to at least see where the hype is coming from.
You’ll also notice I left a few players out of that list. While this team is coming into the season hot, some members of the team are receiving little to no buzz. Today we’re starting a four part series to give them their due, because if Villanova is going to make a deep run they’ll need contributions from everyone on the roster. We’ll break down why these players are being overlooked, and key you into why Nova Nation should be more excited for what they can contribute this year. And we’ll start with a former National Champion and MVP that deserves a lot more attention than he’s getting.
Dhamir “DaDa” Cosby-Roundtree, Junior | Forward
It’s hard to believe that a guy who will likely be a team captain this season is coming in under the radar, but that’s exactly what’s happening with Cosby-Roundtree. Add to it that he’s one of just three players left over from the 2018 National Championship run and you’d think there would be more of a ground swell for the guy. But there are two things that have DaDa on the back burner when talking about next season: a 2019 setback and a pair of freshman.
Inside Villanova Basketball: Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree Segment
Sophomore Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree was featured on Inside Villanova Basketball w/ Jay Wright pres. by Land Rover Jaguar Main Line! Next episode airs on Wednesday, March 6 at 6:30pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia.Posted by Villanova Basketball on Monday, March 4, 2019
The 2019 setback
After the first four games of last season, Villanova was 2-2 and coming off a shocking home loss to Furman. Fans were reeling in the wake of the first back-to-back losses for the Wildcats in more than 5 years. They needed someone to step up and right the ship, especially with a three game tournament up next. That someone turned out to be Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree.
At the 2018 AdvoCare Invitational, Cosby-Roundtree put together arguably the best three game stretch of his career. At the tournament he averaged a double-double with 11.6 PPG and 11.3 RPG. He shot an astounding 92% from the floor, and went 9-12 (75%) from the charity stripe. He also made himself known on defense with 7 steals and 3 blocks. All of that not only helped Villanova win its 7th consecutive November tournament, but earned Cosby-Roundtree the tournament MVP.
The Villanova big man continued to play well through the rest of the non-conference schedule, although his scoring did come back down into the single digits as the team leaned on seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall for offense. Still, Cosby-Roundtree was a beast on the boards and led the team in rebounding as they began Big East play.
Then in a home game against St. John’s, Dada suffered what appeared to be a minor leg injury. It wasn’t serious enough to make him miss any games, but he only played 5 minutes against St. John’s, and came off the bench for just 5 minutes in the next game. It wouldn’t be until three games later that he was back to seeing more than 20 minutes per game, but by then his classmate Jermaine Samuels had seized his opportunity to start in the front court for the Wildcats.
Cosby-Roundtree would only start in one more game that season for the Wildcats. But in true Villanova fashion, he embraced his new role and put up one of the greatest rebounding seasons of any player under Jay Wright (more on that later). Now with the departures of Eric Paschall and Dylan Painter, Dada is the closest thing to a true center on Villanova’s roster. But just as two big men head out, two elite prospects are coming in.
The loaded front-court
Another reason Cosby-Roundtree hasn’t gotten as much hype this offseason is the pair of incoming forwards in this year’s freshman class. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is a 6’8 power forward that ranks as the #16 player in his class per 247 Sports. He’s gotten a lot of buzz following a National Championship in his senior year of high school and an impressive performance with USA Basketball’s U19 Team. In fact, he’s already being talked about as a locked in 1st round pick in next year’s NBA draft. His classmate, Eric Dixon, is also a highly ranked prospect that should be able to contribute this season for the Wildcats. He set his school’s scoring record en route to being named Pennsylvania’s Mr. Basketball last year, and was one of just a handful of big men asked to try out for Team USA. Bottom line, these two are already coming in with impressive resumes and tons of potential.
A lot of hype is all about potential. It’s easy to see it in highly ranked recruits because we haven’t seen them play for Villanova yet. It gets a little harder when you’re looking at players like Cosby-Roundtree that have already played two seasons. Fans can sometimes fall into a trap that they “know” what a player is capable of, or think that there isn’t room to improve. But often times (especially with big men) making the next step in their development doesn’t come until their 3rd or 4th year. Look at recent examples like Dante Cunningham, Mouphtaou Yarou, Daniel Ochefu, Darryl Reynolds, and Eric Paschall. None of them started reaching their peak potential until their junior or senior seasons.
Take the video at the top of this article. One of the things DaDa was working on last year and all this summer was continuing to grow physically and improve his strength and conditioning. Reports out of the gym are that he’s continued to get stronger, which should make him even harder to handle in the paint this year. And despite having a poor shooting performance in the Big East Tournament, Cosby-Roundtree led the team in shooting on the year with a 64.8% FG%. And for the record, he led the 2018 National Championship team in FG% too. But the real reason everyone should be hyped for Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree’s potential this season is his offensive rebounding.
The Offensive Rating
KenPom.com keeps a stat called Offensive Rating. This is a measure of a players offensive efficiency across multiple stats, and it’s a metric in which Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree excels. The two biggest reasons he rates so highly in this stat are his impressive Field Goal and Offensive Rebounding Percentages. And when I say he rates highly, I mean REALLY high.
DaDa had the highest Offensive Rating on the 2018 National Championship team, but given his sub 12% usage rate the sample size was too small to get overly excited about. Still, he did lead that Championship team in both FG% (77.9%) and OR% (10.4%), and that was promising. In 2019, Cosby-Roundtree’s usage grew slightly to 13.3%, meaning he still wasn’t a volume finisher for the Wildcats. However, his minutes percentage jumped from around 28% to over 50%, meaning he was given far more opportunities to contribute on offense. And boy did he ever.
In 2019, Villanova’s big man didn’t just have the best Offensive Rating for his team. DaDa had the best Offensive Rating in the Big East, and the 6th best Offensive Rating in the country. His Offensive Rebounding percentage of 14.5% placed him in the country’s Top 25, and to put that in perspective, it was one of the greatest offensive rebounding seasons under Jay Wright at Villanova. Here’s the list of players under Jay Wright that played at least 15 minutes per game and had a 12% OR% or better:
Jay Wright’s Most Efficient Offensive Rebounders
Not only did Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree have the most efficient offensive rebounding numbers of the last decade, only Daniel Ochefu and Brooks Sales pulled down more offensive rebounds in a single season under Wright. Those second chance opportunities is where Dada’s potential lies this season.
Per Hoop-Math.com, the big man attempted to put back less than 50% of his offensive rebounds. Those that he did put back up he shot less than 60% on, far under his normal FG%. I’m expecting both of those numbers to improve in 2019-2020. By putting on more muscle this offseason and working on his footwork in the paint, his scoring numbers could go up purely from his offensive rebounding ability. Given the amount of opportunity there is, I won’t be surprised if Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree leads the Wildcats in Offensive Rating for a third consecutive season. Get hyped Nova Nation!