Non-conf preview: November games (non-Battle 4 Atlantis)
Those four words everyone has waited so long to hear – Villanova Basketball is BACK.
The Cats kick off the first month of the season with a packed schedule, a total of 8 games over a 24-day stretch. We’ll focus on the opponents for Villanova’s domestic games (aka non-Battle 4 Atlantis) in this edition.
These five opponents feature – the debut of the 2023-2024 season, basketball’s newest DI team, the return of the Gavitt Games, a new twist on the Big 5, and Villanova family connections. Oddly enough…a LOT of Villanova family connections for a handful of games.
Lets get started:
Head Coach: Duane Simpkins (1st Season)
Preview Season Record: 17-17, 7-11 in Patriot League – Lost in Semifinals of Patriot League Conference Tournament
Key Returners: Matt Rogers (14.1 ppg), Elijah Stephens (9.8 ppg), Colin Smalls (8.6 ppg), Geoff Sprouse (7.8 ppg), Jermaine Ballisager Webb (5.0 ppg)
Key Departures: Johnny O’Neil, Jaxon Knotek
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Adrien Samuels (Vanderbilt), Nick Marshall (Loyola Maryland), Alex Daniels (Weatherford College), Gibraltar Coleman (Freshman), Greg Jones (Freshman), Matt Mayock (Freshman)
Date: Monday, November 6th at The Finneran Pavilion
Most Recent Matchup: December 21, 2016: Villanova 90 - 48
Outlook: Villanova kicks off the 2023-2024 season with a date against American University, who will be led by their new coach, Duane Simpkins.
Simpkins is about as DMV as they come in the basketball world. He played at DeMatha Catholic High School (Justin Moore, Malcolm Thomas) and the University of Maryland. After a career playing ball overseas, he started coaching high school and college.
His most recent stop was George Mason where he featured as an assistant for new Providence coach Kim English. Simpkins now leads an American team with high hopes for the season.
The Eagles were voted to finish 3rd in the Patriot League this upcoming season, and for good reason. They return several key contributors from last year when they fell in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Senior Matt Rogers will be No.1 on Neptune’s scouting report. The 6’9 forward was selected as the Pre-Season Patriot League Player of the Year. Additionally, sophomore Jermaine Ballisager Webb is another player to watch out for. The 7’0 tall center is expected to make a big jump this season.
Villanova Family Connection: Junior Matt Delaney is the brother of two-time National Champion Tim Delaney. Oddly enough, the last time Villanova played American (2016-2017 season) – Tim logged 6 minutes.
Le Moyne Dolphins
Head Coach: Nate Champion (5th Season)
Preview Season Record: 15-15, 11-9 Northeast-10 – Lost in 2nd Round of the NE10 Championship
Key Returners: Isaiah Salter (11.7 ppg), Luke Sutherland (11.2 ppg), Mike DePersia (All-Defense Conference Team)
Key Departures: Xavier Wilson, Zy’Ever Wingfield
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Kaiyem Cleary (Freshman), Mason Landdeck (Hawaii Pacific), Jamel Melvin (Northern Colorado), AJ Dancler (Freshman), Deng Garang (Freshman),
Date: Friday, November 10th at The Finneran Pavilion
Most Recent Matchup: The 1958-59 Season: Villanova, 83-67
Outlook: Villanova will host Le Moyne is a historic season for the Dolphins. The 2023-2024 year serves as the first year Le Moyne will be competing in Division I basketball since they accepted an invite to the Northeast Conference.
Le Moyne had previously been in Division II where they finished .500 last season and fell in the second round of their conference tournament.
The Dolphins’ roster returns nine players from last season, along with a handful of transfers and freshmen to round out its first Division I team.
Grad Students Isaiah Salter, Luke Sutherland, and Mike DePersia are expected to be the leaders this season with Salter and Sutherland carrying the scoring load, with DePersia serving as the team’s best defender.
Le Moyne will play Georgetown in their first game of the season, so ‘Nova fans will get a chance to have to measure up the Dolphins before squaring off later in the week.
Villanova Family Connection: Grad Student Mike DePersia is the younger brother of Rob DePersia, who is the Assistant Director of Basketball Operations.
Head Coach: Steve Donahue (8th Season)
Preview Season Record: 17-13, 9-5 Ivy League
Key Returners: Clark Slajchert (13.6 ppg), Nick Spinoso (8.8 ppg), George Smith (5.6 ppg)
Key Departures: Jordan Dingle (St. John’s), Max Martz (Medical Retirement)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Johnnie Walter (CSUN), Tyler Perkins (3-Star Freshman), Sam Brown (Freshman), Augustus Gerhart (Freshman), Niklas Polonowski (Freshman)
Date: Monday, November 13th at The Palestra
Most Recent Matchup: December 7, 2022: Villanova 70-59
Outlook: The Big 5 is back for its 2023-2024 season, but this year will be one unlike anyone in Philly has seen before for two reasons:
- City 6? Kidding…it looks like the Big 5 name isn’t going anywhere, but our usual five teams has expanded with Drexel entering the mix.
- Round Robin is out. All six teams have been placed into two pods of three teams. Each Pod plays each other (2 games) and then the Wells Fargo Center will host a triple header on December 2nd to determine a final Big 5 standing for the season. (Pod 1 Winner vs Pod 2 Winner, Pod 1 Runner Up vs Pod 2 Runner Up, Pod 1 Loser vs Pod 2 Loser)
Villanova has been placed in Pod 2, along with Penn and St. Joe’s. The Cats will kick off Big 5 play in the Palestra against a Penn team looking to re-establish itself after suffering some key losses from last season.
Leading scorer Jordan Dingle has opted to take the Amtrak to New York City and will join Rick Pitino and St. John’s. The senior guard had 25 points and 9 rebounds against the Cats last season.
More unfortunate news for the Quakers – Max Martz has medically retired and will not play the upcoming season. He had 15 points against the Cats last year.
In last season’s game Dingle and Martz made up 68% of the Quakers’ scoring.
Head Coach Earl Grant will be tasked with filling some massive shoes on the roster this season and they’ll have to figure things out fast. Along with Villanova, Penn has Kentucky, Houston, and Auburn on the non-conference schedule.
Returners Clark Slajchert and Nick Spinoso will likely be depended on to help the scoring load and 3-Star recruit Tyler Perkins will have a chance to make an immediate impact.
As Nova Nation learned the hard way in 2018, anything can happen with these Big 5 games and it’s always great to see the Cats in the Palestra.
Head Coach: Kevin Willard (2nd Season)
Preview Season Record: 22-13, 11-9 BIG Ten – Lost in NCAA Round of 32 to Alabama
Key Returners: Jahmir Young (15.8 ppg), Julian Reese (11.4 ppg), Donta Scott (11.3 ppg)
Key Departures: Hakim Hart (Villanova)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Chance Stephens (Loyola Marymount), Jordan Geronimo (Indiana), Mady Traore (New Mexico State), DeShawn Harris-Smith (4-Star Freshman), Jamie Kaiser (4-Star Freshman), Jahnathan Lamothe (3-Star Freshman), Braden Pierce (3-Star Freshman)
Date: Friday, November 17th at The Finneran Pavilion
Most Recent Matchup: January 15, 2011: Villanova 74-66
Outlook: Villanova returns for another year of the Gavitt Games, where they will face regional foe Maryland. While it’s been a minute since the Cats battled the Terrapins, they’re much more familiar with 2nd year Head Coach Kevin Willard.
Willard left Seton Hall for Big 10 pastures and brought Maryland back to the NCAA tournament after missing the 2022 edition. The Terrapins fell to Alabama in the Round of 32.
Maryland fully expects to return to the NCAA Tournament this year as they return three of their top four scorers, along with a group of transfers and an impressive freshmen class.
Jahmir Young will once again be Maryland’s go to guy. The 5th year player transferred to Maryland last year after three seasons with UNC Charlotte. He averaged 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists last year.
Maryland has a complete and talented lineup, but another name to watch is Top 30 Recruit DeShawn Harris-Smith from Paul VI High School. The 6-5 freshman considered Villanova, but ultimately chose Maryland.
Despite a very solid roster, Maryland will need to replace the Hart of their team as Hakim Hart will suit up for your Villanova Wildcats this season. Hart impacted the game is all ways – playing 33 minutes per night and averaging 11.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals on 47.9/33.3/80.4 shooting.
The Terrapins will without a doubt miss him but should be equipped to battle in BIG 10 play.
Final note – it’s a good thing Villanova is the home team here as Maryland was 16-1 at home last year (2-9 on the road).
Saint Joseph’s Hawks
Head Coach: Billy Lange (5th Season)
Preview Season Record: 16-17, 8-10 A-10
Key Returners: Erik Reynolds II (19.6 ppg), Cameron Brown (13.3 ppg), Lynn Greer III (12.5 ppg)
Key Departures: Ejike Obinna (8.4 ppg)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Christ Essandoko (Redshirt Frosh), Xzayvier Brown (3 Star Freshman), Dasear Haskins (3-Star Freshman), Anthony Finkley (3-Star Freshman), Will Lange (Freshman)
Date: Wednesday, November 29th at The Finneran Pavilion
Most Recent Matchup: December 4, 2021: Villanova 81-52
Outlook: Despite the changes with the Big 5 schedule – the Holy War never dies (unlike the Hawk).
Billy Lange has steadily improved St. Joe’s record over his last four seasons, and there’s optimism that trend continues in 2023-2024.
Last season, St. Joe’s won 16 games despite losing their top two scorers – continuing the trend over the last three years (5 wins -> 11 wins -> 16 wins).
Lange is returning seven of their top eight in scoring and minutes, and five of those players are entering their third season with St. Joe’s. As a result, the A-10 coaches selected the Hawks at 5th in the preseason A-10 poll, which is their highest in years.
Erik Reynolds II returns as the guy for St. Joe’s – he scored 27 points against Villanova last year. He’ll be assisted by Cameron Brown and Lynn Greer III. Greer III, a transfer from Dayton, found his groove in the second half of last season and averaged 16.1 points over the last 17 games.
To supplement this core – the Hawks are very high on redshirt freshman Christ Essandoko. Christ sat out last season due to NCAA eligibility requirements. The 7’0 285 pound center is originally from France and will immediately fill in the only hole on the roster.
Lange also brought in a local trio of 3-star freshmen from either Roman Catholic or Camden High School.
Without a doubt, the Hawks likely believe this is their best chance to knock off Villanova since Lange has been there. It will be the final Big 5 game before the tournament so it will be a must win if Kyle Neptune wants a shot at the championship.
Villanova Family Connection: Senior guard Chris Arizin is the grandson of Villanova legend Paul Arizin.