The Villanova Wildcats’ up-and-down season continues. Even in a game where the ‘Cats were underdogs, a loss feels much, much worse than it normally would.
There’s no lack of effort on the Wildcats’ part, but things just haven’t been translating.
Here are three takeaways of things we learned — maybe were reminded of — in Villanova’s 88-80 loss to Xavier.
Cam Whitmore is for real
Cam Whitmore dropped a career-high 26 points as a Wildcat despite a shaky start in the first five minutes, further assuring his top-10 NBA Draft pick projection. His athleticism and ranginess were all on full display with several crowd-popping dunks and the most consistent game from behind the arc he’s had all year.
Seeing Whitmore take over a game was something the fans had been dying for. He’s had flashes of greatness, but hopefully this is a turning point where he can find consistency. He had a marquee performance against a big opponent and clearly delivered, shooting 11-of-18 overall and 3-for-7 from deep.
Height is still not Villanova’s friend
Teams in the Big East that build their offense attack around pure length — Xavier, UConn, Creighton — are Villanova’s kryptonite. That doesn’t surprise anyone, even now with larger bodies like Cam Whitmore and Trey Patterson to help Eric Dixon in the frontcourt, the ‘Cats overall lack of size upfront is an issue, especially against elite big men.
The ‘Cats have done the best they could managing with what they have, but it felt like they were just flat out overpowered.
6-foot-9 big man Zach Freemantle had overwhelmingly his best offensive game of the season, dropping 29 points on 12-of-17 shooting, with 11 rebounds, since Villanova was not able to rush on defensive rotation fast enough to overcome the reach he had with all of his shots. Seven-footer Jack Nunge didn't necessarily blow up the stat sheet but was a problem defensively with very little effort.
If this doesn’t cause notice for new recruiting patterns, not too sure what does.
Mark Armstrong needs to start over Chris Arcidiacono
The debate of who should start between Mark Armstrong and Chris Arcidiacono has gone on since the beginning of the season. Some value Arcidiacono’s experience in the system and lack of turnovers, while others value Armstrong’s ability to consistently produce offense with the ball in his hands. 16 games into the season, it might be time to let Armstrong go to work.
Chris’ lack of scoring is now far too apparent to justify his ability to facilitate. Armstrong’s mid-range shooting, speed, and athleticism create far more opportunities to put points on the board for both himself and his teammates. When both are on the court, Villanova is simply too small to effectively defend larger teams like Xavier — the door opens for several mismatches at a time which makes everyone’s job harder. And since both guards contribute equally in one-on-one defense, all else remains for what Arcidiacono fails to provide.
We’ve seen Arcidiacono’s minutes decrease and Armstrong’s increase slowly over the course of the season, with the Georgetown game ideally being a turning point for Armstrong. That trend should continue to occur, but more drastically in order to address the lack of consistent scoring. The Xavier game was only the second time all season where Armstrong played more minutes than Arcidiacono (with the other time being the Boston College game).
Armstrong didn’t follow up on his big Georgetown outing too well, but his four points on 2-of-5 shooting, with three boards, one assist — albeit three turnovers — felt better than Arcidiacono’s zero points, four boards, one assist and one steal. It was Arcidiacono’s third time in the last four games where he did not register a made shot.
Arcidiacono has the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference, so he shouldn’t be completely cast off, but it might be time to see a changing of the guard.