clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2022 Blue-White Scrimmage takeaways, early player impressions

When there hasn’t been any college basketball in months, you bet it’s time to go all-in on our first public look at the ‘Cats through Villanova’s preseason scrimmage.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Practice Day Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova, Pa.—The Villanova Wildcats held their annual Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage Thursday evening at the Finneran Pavilion. Due to some banged up Wildcats, the scrimmage was condensed to just three eight-minute games between the teams. Players rotated teams after every game throughout the duration of the event.

In the first game, Angelo Brizzi started the scoring off early, connecting on two tough buckets within the first two minutes of the game, including this crafty layup:

Brizzi would continue to keep his foot on the gas in game one and lead his team to a 16-15 victory.

Game two was frankly the sloppiest game of the night, but it found team blue exacting revenge on team white by a final score of 15-12. Eric Dixon looked impressive and led his team in scoring with nine points, while Angelo Brizzi matched that with nine of his own for team white.

The final game of the evening was by far the most entertaining and found Dixon picking up right where he left off in game two. A hoop and the harm sent Dixon to the line to earn three the old fashioned way, only to have Brandon Slater come down the other end and knock down a three of his own.

The hot start for both teams would continue well into the latter stages of the final matchup and this showdown had everything from a Brendan Hausen no-look dime to a wide open cutter, to yet another grown man slam from Nnanna Njoku on the other end.

Before we knew it, there was under a minute left in a tie game. A Mark Armstrong foul on a Jordan Longino three-point attempt would send the sophomore to the line with a chance to put his team up with less than 30 seconds to go. Longino confidently knocked down all three free throws to give team white the lead. With one last hope of tying the game, Armstrong drove it strongly at Angelo Brizzi, who would not budge. A Brandon Slater equalizer would fall short and team white would go on take the final game, 22-17.

Here are some takeaways from Thursday night:

Veteran leadership

In a season of momentous change, having veteran leadership is vital to a team’s success. The leadership displayed tonight from Brandon Slater and Eric Dixon, was like looking into a time machine from last year and seeing Jermaine Samuels and Collin Gillespie on the court again.

Brandon Slater looked to be the same version of the Brandon Slater we saw toward the end of last season and into tournament play. Slater started off slow, and was trying to get guys involved with his passing and off-ball movement. Then when the team needed him most, it was like a switch flicked on and he was in attack mode. Slater connected early and often from deep and played the same brand of big defense we have come to expect from the explosive senior. Slater is one of the prototypical Villanova basketball players who will do whatever it takes to win, whether it is credited to him in the stat sheet or not.

Then, there is Eric Dixon. It was reported yesterday that Dixon is looking much bigger and stronger, but the mental growth he has made on the court has been bigger than the physical. Dixon looked much more vocal, especially to the younger players about defensive sets, offensive positioning and even in-between plays.

There are also his physical attributes. Every time Eric Dixon plays, his footwork gets better and tonight was no different. Dixon looked like a ballerina in the paint with the strength of a bull. He even connected on his only attempt from beyond the arc.

Both Dixon and Slater are going to play paramount roles in the success of the team this season, and tonight their leadership qualities were on full display. Both possess the skill set to take over a game by themselves if that is what the situation requires, but sometimes it is the work they put in that does not appear on the stat sheet that is most important.

The Daycare

‘The Daycare’ nickname is one that will hopefully stick, that has been given to a group of young players and freshmen that really increased their stock tonight.

Mark Armstrong: Hailing from South Orange, N.J., Armstrong is looking like one of the most mature first-year players that has come into the program in a while. He looked totally comfortable handling the ball, controlling the tempo and managing the game. He was not discouraged when his shot was not falling. The 6-foot-2 point guard did not let ticky-tack fouls throw him off his game. He remained poised, calm and ready to contribute quality minutes on the court.

Nnanna Njoku: He only tallied 28 minutes in nine appearances last year. This year, however, he looks poised to make the leap and give Neptune some much needed depth.

This play from Njoku is exactly what you love to see. Njoku clears space under the basket legally, and throws down an offensive rebound with authority. He’s one of the most physically imposing players on the roster. He looked good on Thrusday and could seriously play his way into the rotation if he continues to assert himself. ‘Nova would’ve loved to have more frontcourt depth last season, and it’s looking like Njoku will be ready to step things up this year.

Brendan Hausen: The way he moves without the ball, not only in transition, but also in half-court sets is a thing of beauty. While he’s known for his three-point shooting and definitely will fit in as a perimeter-scoring threat, he also flashed the other skills in his arsenal. He facilitated for his teammates and looked comfortable handling the ball for most of the night. He’s fast, quick, smart and a prototypical Villanova guard.

Jordan Longino: The former AFI national high school boys’ 3-point champion looked outstanding as well. He came on like wildfire at the end of last season, before having season-ending meniscus surgery. It is safe to say he looks fully healthy again and is primed to pick up right where he left off. One noticeable improvement and addition to his game was on defense. Longino picked up whoever was in front of him and he did it with ease. He looks much stronger and it is very apparent that Longino put in the work on his lateral movement and defensive style this summer.

Angelo Brizzi

Yeah that’s right, Brizzi gets his own section. No, but seriously, that is how good he was. Involved in almost every offensive set for whichever team he was on in the scrimmage, Brizzi’s bag was on full display tonight.

On offense, Brizzi started hot, scoring the first four points in the first game all in under two minutes. He would continue his solid play by playing outstanding defense and earning scrappy rebounds over much taller defenders.

Brizzi led his team in scoring in two of the three games tonight, and he did so efficiently.

He didn’t take any bad shots. Brizzi had no problems facilitating the offense and running the floor, there was plenty to like about his game on Thursday night.

Brizzi told VU Hoops on Media Day that he focused a lot on the ‘mental aspect’ of the game, more so than the physical during the off-season. Both his mental and physical qualities were firing on all cylinders, as he played well enough to win the inaugural 2022 Blue/White Scrimmage MVP Award, a totally real, not-made-up award.