The final appetizer to the season’s main course of Big East play, the ‘Cats will spend the first half of December squaring off against a unique group of regional foes along with a nostalgic Big 12 opponent.
This stretch of the schedule will consist of Villanova’s participation in several events – the annual Big East vs Big 12 Battle, the Never Forget Tribute Class, and a conclusion of the 2022 Big 5 Season.
These four games will be highlighted by a light travel schedule (only two “away” games), the first Wells Fargo game of the year, and a potential debut of Cam Whitmore.
On paper, Villanova should be favored to win all four of these games. However, there is more than meets the eye with these teams. The ‘Cats will be facing teams eager for a season defining victory whether its for a NCAA resume, building program morale, or battling for the Big 5 championship – none of these games are going to be easy out for the ‘Cats. Let’s break down exactly what Kyle Neptune and staff will be up against:
Head Coach: Porter Moser (2nd Season)
Preview Season Record: 19-16, 7-11 in Big 12 – Lost in Second Round of NIT to St. Bonaventure
Key Returners: Tanner Grover (11.6 ppg), Jalen Hill (9.1 ppg), Jacob Groves (4.6 ppg), C.J. Noland (3.9 ppg), Bijan Cortes (2.0 ppg)
Key Departures: Umoja Gibson, Jordan Goldwire, Elijah Harkless
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Joe Bamisile (George Washington), Grant Sherfield (Nevada), Yaya Keita (Missouri), Otega Oweh (4-star freshman), Milos Uzan (4-star freshman), Benny Schroder (Germany)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 3, at Wells Fargo Arena
Most Recent Matchup: April 2, 2016: The Largest Margin of Victory in Final Four History
Outlook: It’s been over five seasons with coaching changes on both sides – but Villanova and Oklahoma will square off for the first time since the 2016 Final Four.
Porter Moser enters his second season as the Sooners’ head coach with the intention on returning to the NCAA Tournament. The 2021-22 season was an up and down campaign for Oklahoma as they fought through arguably the toughest conference in the country, resulting in seventh-hardest schedule.
Their season was highlighted by five wins against Top 14 teams which earned them a NIT bid, before falling in the second round to St. Bonaventure.
Entering the 2022-23 season, Moser will have his work cut out for him – having to integrate eight new players on a team that only returns 44% of their scoring from last season. However, Porter Moser is no stranger to overcoming the odds as he was the Head Coach for Loyola University Chicago’s Final Four run as an No. 11 seed in 2018.
Despite a lack of pre-season buzz for the Sooners, Villanova fans should avoid overlooking this squad. There are three quick points that should be pointed out ahead of the matchup:
- Oklahoma’s projected starting lineup features four seniors and one junior. As Villanova fans know, experience matters in the college game
- Oklahoma started and ended last season playing really good basketball – going 11-2 in preseason (wins over No. 14 Florida and No. 12 Arkansas, two losses by a combined five points) and ending the season 5-2 (win over No. 3 Baylor, two losses by a combined three points).
- Porter Moser can be a terrifying coach to go against, and now he’s had a full off season to bring in the right guys and further implement his style on the program.
Head Coach: Steve Donahue (5th Season)
Preview Season Record: 12-16, 9-5 Ivy League
Key Returners: Jordan Dingle (20.9 ppg), Clark Slajchert (10.7 ppg), Max Martz (10.0 ppg), Jordan Charles (6.7 ppg)
Key Departures: Michael Wang (6.4 ppg), Jelani Williams (6.0 ppg)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Chris Ubochi (Freshman), Cam Thrower (Freshman)
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 7 at The Finn
Most Recent Matchup: Dec. 1, 2021: Villanova, 71-56
Outlook: After a disappointing 2021-22 Season for the Penn Quakers, Head Coach Steve Donahue will look to build on an experienced roster to make some more noise in the Big 5 and Ivy League play.
Last season was almost a reboot for the Ivy League, as they elected to cancel the 2020-21 season due to COVID. The Quakers built a strong non-conference schedule last season with three ranked teams but struggled to a 3-10 schedule, including 0-4 in the Big 5.
They bounced back in conference play – finishing 9-5 and fell to Yale in the Ivy League semi-final.
However, Penn has the luxury of familiarity and experience heading into the 2022-23 season, something rare in today’s game. The Quakers return their top four scorers, and nine of their top 11.
Villanova fans should expect a deep and motivated Penn team to show up as this game falls in the middle of Penn’s Big 5 run. With Villanova being the only pre-season ranked opponent on their schedule, expect to receive everything Penn has.
Boston College Eagles
Head Coach: Earl Grant (2nd Season)
Preview Season Record: 13-20, 6-14 ACC
Key Returners: Makai Ashton-Langford (12 ppg), DeMarr Langford Jr. (11.3 ppg), Jaeden Zackery (10.4 ppg), James Karnik (9.8 ppg), Quinten Post (9.4 ppg),
Key Departures: Brevin Galloway (Clemson), James Karnik
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Mason Madsen (Cincinnati), CJ Penha Jr. (DII), Prince Aligbe (4-star freshman), Donald Hand Jr (4-star freshman), Chas Kelley (3-star freshman)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 10 at Prudential Center
Most Recent Matchup: Nov. 25, 2020: Villanova, 76-67
Outlook: Boston College basketball has long faced an uphill battle in the ACC – a football-focused school attempting to find consistent results in a deep, basketball-focused conference. However, 2022-23 provides a glimmer of hope for Eagles fans.
The Villanova Wildcats will take on the Eagles at the Prudential Center in the 2022 edition of the Never Forget Tribute Classic, an event that helps support the education of children of the victims of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Villanova has participated in this one-game event twice: 2016 vs Notre Dame and 2019 vs Delaware. The 2022 game will pair the ‘Cats against a rising ACC team, looking for a marquee win as they’ll attempt to flirt with a NCAA bid in the spring.
Similar to Villanova’s other December matchups, the ‘Cats will be facing an experienced roster that will give them everything they have.
Head coach Earl Grant enters his second year at the helm, after seven years with Charleston – highlighted by a NCAA bid in 2018. The Eagles rotation will return their top five scorers and six of the seven players that made up the bulk of the rotation. Key additions include Mason Madsen, a transfer from Cincinnati, and a freshmen class led by Prince Aligbe and Donald Hand, the sixth and eighth-highest ranked recruits in program history.
The Eagles should be another great test for Kyle Neptune – an experienced roster with a program on the rise for a tough, defensive minded coach. If Boston College makes some noise in a crowded ACC, a potential win could be another nice resume note in March.
Saint Joseph’s Hawks
Head Coach: Billy Lange (4th Season)
Preview Season Record: 11-19, 5-13 A-10
Key Returners: Ejike Obinna (12.1 ppg), Erik Reynolds II (12.1 ppg), Cameron Brown (8.3 ppg)
Key Departures: Jordan Hall (14.1 ppg), Taylor Funk (13.2 ppg), Dahmir Bishop (3.1 ppg), Jack Forrest (3.6 ppg)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Lynn Greer III (Dayton), Louis Bleechmore (Harcum College), Christian Winborne (3-star freshman), Christ Essandoko (3-star freshman)
Date: Saturday, December 17th at Hagan Arena
Most Recent Matchup: Dec. 4, 2021: Villanova, 81-52
Outlook: The 2022 Holy War will feature two former Villanova assistants facing off with Kyle Neptune succeeding Jay Wright and former Villanova assistant/Associate HC Billy Lange beginning his fourth season as the Hawks leader.
On paper, it’d be easy to see a positive trend in Lange’s tenure with St. Joe’s – almost doubling their win total last season compared to his first season in charge (five wins in 2020, 11 in 2022). However, an exodus on top talent from last year’s roster leaves more questions than answers for the Hawks’ 2023 campaign.
The Hawks’ top two scorers from last year, Jordan Hall and Taylor Funk, have moved on – leaving a large opportunity for other players to step up. Hall was a bright spot last year for the Hawks as he combined for 60+ points in their two wins over Temple and Penn.
Despite missing their top end players, Lange’s roster will be highlighted by four guys who played at least 24 games, along with a handful of transfers and an encouraging freshmen class.
St. Joe’s has signed up for an ambitious non-conference schedule, highlighted by Houston, Villanova, Dayton and Georgia. While the team on paper might not be the most talent Lange has had recently, the Hawks will be battle tested by the time Dec. 17 rolls around and the ‘Cats should expect anything to happen during a road rivalry game.