Preseason Previews: Villanova

Marquette Men's Basketball

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

The first official practices of the 17-18 college basketball season are in the books and Paint Touches is celebrating by counting down every Marquette opponent from worst to first. Each preview will contain a look at how the opponent did last season, who they lose, who they gain, reasonable expectations for their season, and our own prediction of how their matchup(s) with Marquette will go. This series will start with the most under of underdogs and progress all the way up to most unbeatable of opponents. We’ve finally arrived at the last opponent. The cream of the crop, the most unbeatable….is anyone truly surprised to find out that it is the Villanova Wildcats?

Team: Villanova Wildcats
16-17 Record: 32-4 (15-3 Big East)
Postseason?: Earned a 1 seed but were upset in the second round by….ugh….Wisconsin
16-17 KenPom: 2
Date: 01/06/18 & 1/28/18
Location: Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia, PA) & BMO Harris Bradley Center
Coach: Jay Wright (17th Season)
Projected KenPom Range: 1-15
Projected Conference Finish: 1/10 in the Big East

Departures from 16-17
Josh Hart: Starting Wing: 33.2 mpg, 18.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .510 FG%, .404 3P% (Graduated and drafted 30th overall by Utah)
Kris Jenkins: Starting PF: 31.1 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.4 tpg, .384 FG%, .360 3P% (Graduated)
Darryl Reynolds: 1st Man off the Bench: 23.9 mpg, 4.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .688 FG%, .000 3P% (Graduated)
46% of scoring, 45% of rebounding, 39% of assists, 43% of steals, 54% of blocks, 52% of 3PM

Phil Booth: Backup G, returns after missing 33 games due to injury
Omari Spellman: 2016 5-star C, ranked #21 overall by 247Sports, returns from redshirt
Jermaine Samuels: 4-star SF, ranked #44 overall by 247Sports
Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree: 4-star PF, ranked #91 overall by 247Sports
Collin Gillespie: 3-star PG, ranked #260 overall by 247Sports
Peyton Heck: Walk on PG

Probable Starters:
PG: Jalen Brunson: 6-2 200 lb JR: 31.1 mpg, 14.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 4.1 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.1 tpg, .541 FG%, .378 3P%
SG: Phil Booth: 6-3 190 lb RSJR: 21.9 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.4 tpg, .368 FG%, .317 3P% (15-16 stats)
SF: Donte DiVencenzo: 6-5 205 lb RSSO: 25.5 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.4 tpg, .466 FG%, .365 3P%
PF: Mikal Bridges: 6-6 210 lb RSJR: 29.8 mpg, 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.3 tpg, .549 FG%, .393 3P%
C: Omari Spellman: 6-9 245 lb RSFR C: 2016 5-star C, ranked #21 overall by 247Sports, returns from redshirt

Probable Bench:
Eric Paschall: 6-9 255 lb RSJR PF
Jermaine Samuels: 6-5 225 lb FR SF
Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree: 6-9 220 lb FR PF
Dylan Painter: 6-9 245 lb SO C

Probable Benchwarmers:
Collin Gillespie: 6-3 190 lb FR PG
Tim Delaney: 6-9 230 lb RSSO PF
Matt Kennedy: 6-2 175 lb SR SG
Tom Leibig: 6-4 195 lb SR SF
Denny Grace: 5-11 175 lb RSSR PG
Peyton Heck: 5-11 175 lb JR PG


• Last season Villanova continued its dominance of the newest incarnation of the Big East despite running what was basically a seven-man rotation with no traditional big man. They did what the National championship squad from a year before could not, earn a 1 seed, though it was wasted when they lost in the 2nd round to an 8 seed. Gone from that team are three rotation players, Mr. Big Shot Kris Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds, and of course Josh Hart, the first team All American and Julius Erving Award winner. Coming in are two players who were supposed to be on the roster last season but were held out due to injury and academics (can you imagine how good they would have been?). They also bring in a recruiting class the features two top 100 players and was ranked 4th in the Big East. Villanova will take a step back, they lose too much talent not to, but they will still be amongst the best teams in the nation and be favored to win a 5th straight Big East regular season championship.
• He has been in the shadow of Josh Hart for the past two seasons, but this year Villanova is finally Jalen Brunson’s team. The rising junior has All American written all over him. He is unstoppable on offense. Despite an extremely high usage, Brunson’s points per possession were in the top 5% of all Division 1 last season. Throw in assists to that equation and he was in the top 1%. Put simply, if a play ended with him taking the shot or making a pass to someone who took a shot, points were almost guaranteed to be scored. Brunson is an average jumpshooter but every other part of his offensive game is elite. He can take his man in isolation, attack out of the pick and roll, finish in transition, or quick out to an open shooter. The only hope defenders have of stopping him is denying penetration and turning him into a shooter….which is both easier said than done and possibly ineffective because he still hits threes with 38% accuracy. On defense, he has the reflexes to challenge jumpshots, speed to deny penetration, and instincts to create turnovers. Brunson should be one of the finalists for Big East Player of the Year.
• The other Wildcat getting attention from NBA scouts is Mikal Bridges. Bridges is not the type of player to explode in a game, he only has one 20-point performance to his name (it was in Nova’s loss to Marquette!). What he does bring is efficient offense, versatile defense, and an ability to finish in transition like few can. Bridges has the ideal body for a modern-day NBA 2 guard. 6-6 to 6-7, tons of muscle, and a wingspan that goes on for days. Villanova’s roster makeup will demand that he plays the “four” a lot of the time as the largest guard, but the mismatches that causes always work out in his favor. His offense is even more efficient than Bruson’s ranking in the top 3% of all Division 1 players. In the half court, he is an accurate jumpshooter but his bread and butter is transition. He scored 97 points in transition last season in only 57 transition opportunities. That adds up to a whopping 1.7 points per possession in transition. His athleticism makes him near automatic in fast break opportunities. His defense is all about disruption. His wingspan allows him to get into passing lanes and pick up near 2 steals a game. If you try to rise above him he has a good chance to send it into the second row. Bridges will be an excellent do it all sidekick to Brunson.
• With Daniel Ochefu departing from their national championship squad, you can imagine how excited Villanova fans were that 5-star C Omari Spellman had committed and was ready to pick up where Ochefu left off. Those same fans were devastated when they learned that a questionable decision by the NCAA about some of Spellman’s high school classes would force him to take an academic redshirt. It was painful in the moment, but all that waiting is about to pay off. Spellman came to Nova as a can’t miss prospect who was going to make an immediate impact in the post. He was known for using his wide body to clear out space, box out for rebounders, and seal defenders off in the lane. Not only that, but he displayed some characteristics that you wouldn’t expect from a man of his stature, namely decent handles, soft hands, and a surprisingly accurate outside shot. The only thing that could hold Spellman back was his conditioning. Spellman used his redshirt season well. He came to campus at a whopping 290 lbs but has since dropped his weight all the way to 245. That’s 45 less pounds of chub plus a whole bunch of muscle. Spellman is almost a lock for the Big East All Freshman team and could be the third best player for the Wildcats.
• Two seasons ago, Phil Booth was the defensive specialist coming off the bench for Villanova. He didn’t have much size but his tenacity allowed him to guard positions 1 through 3 and was known for his ability to stop a player who was on a tear. His offense wasn’t extraordinary by any means but it was solid enough to justify his place on the floor, especially with so many efficient shooters around him that he could pass to. He found his offense in a big way in the National Championship game when he led the Wildcats with 20 points on 6/7 shooting. It was after this performance that Booth received surgery on his knee. The surgery was dubbed a success but Booth was plagued with knee pain afterward. He attempted to play through the pain for three games but was eventually held out of the fourth game. There were optimistic timetables for his return throughout the season but the staff wanted to hold him out until he was pain free. Eventually, the decision was made to shut him down. He is supposed to come back 100% healthy and that will allow him to be the defensive specialist and secondary ball handler for Jay Wright.
• Coach Wright brings in a pair of top 100 recruits to bolster his already talented squad. The gem of the class is a big physical wing out of Massachusetts named Jermaine Samuels. A small forward built like a tank, Samuels is a rare recruit whose defense is ahead of his offense. His quickness and strength often leads to transition opportunities and highlight reel dunks. Some are already pegging him as Josh Hart’s replacement, a four year player who will be an All American by the time he is a senior. He is likely to come off the bench in his first season but should have ample playing time. The other big name is local product Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. Villanova was caught in a shortage of big men last season and Dhamir is part of the answer to that. As a senior he led his high school to a fourth straight state championship while averaging 15.9 points and 11.5 rebounds a game. He needs some conditioning when he gets to campus but he should be effective backing up Spellman at the center position.


Last season, Villanova beat Marquette soundly in Philly before giving Marquette their biggest win to date of the Wojo era. I say give intentionally because while Marquette needed unreal performances from Duane Wilson and Katin Reinhardt, Villanova had that game in hand until they started launching and bricking threes on every possession. While the Wildcats won’t be quite as unbeatable as they were in the past, they are still head and shoulders a better team than Marquette. There is simply no one on Marquette’s roster with the defensive capability of shutting down Jalen Brunson. Their only hope is to do what they did last season, turn Nova into a jumpshooting team and pray they miss. Nova rolls by double digits in both games.

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Categories: Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic


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