After catching up with the ‘Cats on Villanova Media Day, Big East Media Day gives more time with the ‘Cats, but also a chance to get other perspectives and insights across the Big East.
While Kyle Neptune will constantly praise Justin Moore and Eric Dixon, who were both preseason All-Big East this year, what do other teams and players think?
Creighton’s McDermott triples down on the ‘Cats
Creighton head coach Gregg McDermott has found great success in the conference since he took over the Bluejays on April 27th, 2010, boasting a 300-150 record in his first thirteen seasons at the helm.
Long story short, McDermott knows what it takes to win at the highest level. That is why his opinion is so valuable when it comes to the assessment of other coaches and players around the league.
Recently, McDermott has been vocal when it comes to his commendation of the job Kyle Neptune and the Wildcats have done, telling Jon Rothstein that people are “sleeping” on the 2023-24 Wildcats.
“They’ve got seven seniors. How many bad teams out there exist with seven seniors in today’s day and age” McDermott told Rothstein.
McDermott’s praise of the Wildcats dates back to last season, immediately following their victory over the Villanova Wildcats McDermott had a message for the media and Nova Nation.
“Villanova is not going anywhere. They had a lot of adversity this year. That program is here to stay” said Greg McDermott pic.twitter.com/8ZCVN817Sb— Tommy Godin (@tommygodinjr) March 10, 2023
Today, McDermott essentially tripled down on his stance, once again giving Kyle Neptune and the Wildcats their metaphorical flowers.
“I was impressed with the job Kyle [Neptune] did last year,” McDermott said. “It’s, you know, it’s one thing to have to have to replace a guy like Jay Wright, but then the adversity with the injuries and trying to pull that together through all that would have been difficult for an experienced coach, let alone a young coach and I thought Kyle did a tremendous job and had them playing their best basketball at the end of the year, they way they wanted to play. Now, I think they’ve added some pieces to their returners that really fit. So, I think they’re a really really good basketball team, and a team that has a chance to win this league.”
Trying to stop a 100% Justin Moore
Marquette’s Stevie Mitchell, which most Wildcats fans may remember in an respectful but unsavory light from his 19-point, four steal performance at the Finneran Pavilion in a 68-66 win in December of 2022, is not only one of the best defenders in the conference, but the whole country.
Mitchell, a local product hailing from nearby Reading, Pennsylvania, was recruited by Villanova in high school and still holds the school in high regard.
When going table-to-table looking for an opinion, there was no better option than Mitchell. According to KenPom, in 2023, Mitchell led the conference in steal percentage while finishing runner up in turnover rate.
His unique blend of basketball IQ and defensive prowess made him the perfect candidate to ask about the challenges covering a player like Justin Moore would present.
“I think it is just his size and ability to shoot the ball and his experience that make him a tough matchup for anybody,” Mitchell said. “I think he does a good job about finding out what his advantage is on whoever is guarding him and trying to exploit that. He’s definitely a good player and you definitely have to guard him as a team.”
Mitchell, who describes his basketball journey as “exciting” and “unfinished,” is set to have a huge role on a national championship contender.
Taking on Dixon
Similarly to Mitchell, when perusing tables at media day, looking for someone to question about the challenges guarding Villanova’s Eric Dixon present, there was no better option than Providence forward Bryce Hopkins.
Like Lance Ware, Hopkins is a Kentucky transfer who found his home in Providence and had a monster season for the Friars last year. Hopkins is a 41% shooter from deep who also boasted a 22.8% defensive rebounding percentage, which was tops in the conference.
Villanova’s Eric Dixon averaged 16 points and 6 rebounds last season when facing the Friars, so it is safe to say Hopkins is very familiar with his game. Both Dixon and Hopkins slimmed down this summer and are primed to have at least two good battles this upcoming season.
“You gotta be very disciplined when you guard him, you just gotta stick to the game plan. I expect a big season from him this year, you know, his versatility is amazing and yeah, he’s a great player” said Hopkins when asked about Dixon.
Hopkins went on to talk about Dixon’s discipline down low and ability to stretch the floor in a tone of genuine appreciation. There was a lot of mutual respect between the two.
Green light to go
On Monday, West Virginia’s RaeQuan Battle was denied a waiver for immediate eligibility, which is more prevalent than ever in the landscape of the sport today.
Will Villanova have any issues with its four new transfers?
“As of right now, we’re in a good spot,” Neptune told me.
All four of the incoming transfers are expected to make an immediate impact so having all of them eligible and ready to go for the beginning of the season will be a huge benefit and testament to the diligence of the University when it comes to the topic of compliance.
The only other member of the Wildcats that was not touched upon at length at media day was one of the most unsung members of the team in recent years Collin O’Toole.
Those who show up to games two-plus hours in advance will see O’Toole out there stretching, screaming and doing whatever else it takes to make sure he and the team are ready to go into battle as a homogeneous unit.
“He’s probably our most energetic guy. He’s a leader in our program, he brings it everyday in his role. He’s a star in his role” said Neptune on O’Toole.
The Wildcats are in a good place heading into their November 6th matchup against American University, which is just under two weeks away. There is a lot to be excited for as we all keep our fingers crossed for a bounce-back season.
Big East Tournament extensions
On Tuesday, Val Ackerman noted that the Big East and Madison Square Garden are in talks to entend the agreement for the Big East Tournament “at a minimum” through 2031-32.