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Wright, Villanova put finishing touches on preparations ahead of Wednesday’s season opener

The season is almost here, and there are a lot of things that the ‘Cats will have to adjust to on the fly during this COVID year.

Saint Mary’s v Villanova Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Jay Wright is not quite sure how this season is going to look, but is confident that this year’s Villanova Wildcats can handle it.

The college basketball season is going to look different for a lot of reasons.

For starters, only about half of the season’s games have been scheduled, with contests after December still unknown. Also, players and coaching staff need to follow strict guidelines to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

The preseason has been affected too, which makes it difficult to judge where the team is at right now.

“I’m concerned anyway just because of all of the time we’ve missed,” Wright said. “With COVID and [getting] back late, we didn’t do anything this summer. We’re definitely not where we would be at this time of the year, in a normal sense, but you have no idea where anybody else is either.”

The team also cannot scrimmage anybody, or bring in referees due to COVID-testing requirements on Villanova’s campus. Right now, they are focused on staying healthy and playing a full season. Wright noted that if the schedule is affected by COVID, there are plans in place to deal with that.

“My hope is that our guys stay disciplined and we pull through this, and we get all our games in,” Wright said. “We’re planning that if some of our games get canceled, we’re communicating with other schools so we have backups. Getting to 13 [games] is an important goal. I think every program when they get to 13 is going to breathe a sigh of relief, and then go from there.”

If Villanova wants to get to that lucky number 13, it is going to have to follow new protocols before each game. Right now, the players and coaching staff are tested three times a week, and Wright gets nervous every time those results come back.

For their upcoming game against Boston College next Wednesday, the Wildcats need to follow a new routine.

“We’re leaving on Monday for a Wednesday game, which we wouldn’t normally do,” Wright said. “We have to test here, and then we have to get up there in time to test on Monday night. Then we have to quarantine in our rooms and eat meals individually in our rooms that night, so all unique experiences.”

These individual experiences before game-time will be new for the ‘Cats, who draw a lot of their success from the community that Wright has formed within the team. Nonetheless, the players are still excited for the season.

“All of us, players coaches, are more excited and anticipate the start of this season more than any season we’ve been involved with,” Wright said.

Villanova has a lot of returning players this season, with the only players who haven’t had game time yet being Caleb Daniels and Eric Dixon, as they come off redshirt years.

However, the team has changed things around to adapt to this unsure season, and a different kind of Villanova team could be showing up on Wednesday. Wright said that they are changing their offensive and defensive philosophy to put themselves in a position to be able to adjust game-to-game.

In a season where a lot is unsure, the Villanova basketball team will look to the senior leadership to guide them.

According to Wright, senior forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree will not be playing early in the season, as he recovers from a shin injury. However, Wright feels that he still demonstrates great and necessary senior leadership.

Adding to the list of injuries, senior walk-on Kevin Hoehn tore his Achilles, and Wright confirmed that Bryan Antoine won’t be dressed for the 2K Classic, as they play it safe and sit him.

Pressure will be on guard Collin Gillespie and forward Jermaine Samuels to lead the team on the court.

“[Gillespie and Samuels] have really been doing a great job,” Wright said. “We scrimmaged this morning and you know they were two guys that were just dialed into what we’re doing. You could tell they’re ready to start a season.”

Eyes are on Gillespie, the senior point guard. According to Wright, we can expect an even higher level of play from him this year.

“[You can look for] creativity offensively, being really crafty and finding new ways to score,” Wright said.

Gillespie, Samuels, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Justin Moore are said to be confirmed starters. As for the final remaining spot, Wright is still deciding but said that it can change at various points of the season, mentioning Daniels, Cole Swider, and Brandon Slater as potential candidates. He also said that the most offensively gifted player of the three might come off the bench as sixth man.

Overall, Wright seems optimistic that Villanova will work as a team to get through this odd season. They are excited to get the season underway and are optimistic they’ll be able to complete it.

While Villanova enters its matchup with Boston College as the favorite, Wednesday’s season opener is going to be a fun, but interesting experience, one that’s bound to have some learning moments.

“It’s going to be interesting to play on Wednesday and Thursday,” Wright said. “Just to see, we can’t scrimmage anybody. We don’t have any feel, usually I’ve been through a scrimmage that I can tell you what we look like. Wednesday is going to be so educational for us.”