Coming into the 2018-19 season after winning a National Championship the prior year and losing stars Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman, and Donte DiVincenzo, naturally, the Villanova basketball program came into the season due for some regression.
Mostly that was true, as Villanova had a good season, but not on par with the success of the teams of the previous five seasons. That’s not to say the Wildcats underachieved. Far from it.
Previewing the Villanova Wildcats 2019-20 Season
Recapping the 2018-19 season
As expected, Villanova took some time to gel, as it had some ugly losses (be it either lopsided losses or by measuring the caliber of the opponent). In the non-conference portion of the schedule, Villanova got crushed at home by Michigan (73-46) and losing to both Furman and Pennsylvania.
As you would expect under a Jay Wright-led squad, Villanova quickly got things in gear. The Wildcats ripped off 10-straight league wins to begin Big East play. They won the Big East regular season (13-5) as well as won the conference tournament title.
It was business as usual for the Villanova basketball program.
The Wildcats would receive a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament and beat Saint Mary’s in the first round, before ending their season to Purdue in the second round.
From a personal standpoint, seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth both went out in style by being named to the All-Big East First Team. Paschall averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Booth led the Wildcats in scoring with 18.6 points while adding 3.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game.
With Booth gone, Gillespie will probably assume the lead-guard duties. He was third on the team in scoring with 10.9 points, while adding 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Gillespie is Villanova’s best shooter, as he shot 37.9 percent from three-point territory.
Bey is an athletic wing that can play and cover many positions. He is coming off of a freshman campaign in which he was named to the All-Big East Freshmen team after averaging 8.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Bey is just scratching the surface of his immense potential.
After slowly working his way into the mix, Samuels really upped his game down the stretch. He should come into the season with a lot of confidence after averaging 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. The combo forward can mix it up as well as anybody in the conference and should only get better in his junior season.
He may just contend for Most Improved honors by season’s end.
Underclassmen Need to Step Up
Wright knows he can’t lean on any seniors this year as he has in the recent past. He’s hoping this core can be ahead of the curve and step up to the plate and take on the leadership mantle.
“We have to first develop a defensive identity that is missing when you have young guys,” said Wright at Big East media day about building around a young core. “We can do a whole thing on why it is so difficult for young players (to adapt defensively). We’re not going to be great defensively at the beginning, but by the end, that’s really what we’re working on.”
“You’re going to have guys out there that haven’t played a lot together,” Wright added about forming team chemistry. “When you had Phil Booth and Eric Paschall last year, it was such a great advantage for us. They were both fifth-year seniors. They had played together in a ton of games—in Final Fours, in Big East championships—they had seen it all. We really don’t have those guys and they did it together. We have to build that chemistry.”
Also back for Wright are key talents in 6’9” big man Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, 6’9” forward Cole Swider and 6’7” wing Brandon Slater. All were highly rated recruits coming out of high school. With new opportunities in front of them, they should be able to make bigger impacts in Wright’s rotation this season.
Speaking of highly-rated recruits, Wright is bringing in one of his better-recruiting classes. It is a five-man class, with four players ranking in the top-100 of 247 Sports’ class of 2019 rankings. It is ranked fifth overall according to 247 Sports.
The good news is that Robinson-Earl was named the conference’s preseason Freshman of the Year at Big East media day. With Paschall gone, expect Robinson-Earl to step into his shoes and be a major factor in the frontcourt. It’s quite possible he could be a one-and-done player.
The bad news is Antoine is tending to a shoulder injury, and the expectation is that he may redshirt his freshman season.
Re: Bryan Antoine and a possible redshirt, Jay Wright told me "everything is on the table" and it "depends on his rehab and return to practice. Right now his rehab is going well but he is way off." https://t.co/1i4DR2nSvu
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) October 16, 2019
Also coming on board is a familiar name within Villanova circles. Wright also signed a 3-star point guard Chris Arcidiacono. Yes, he is Ryan Arcidiacono’s younger brother. Look for him to be eased into the mix, as he is not as talented as his older brother.
Villanova Basketball Season Expectations
By now you know if you play for Wright, you are expected to not only be playing in March but making a deep run as well.
Sure, they are light on experience, but Wright has arguably the most talent in the conference from top to bottom. It’s now all about building chemistry and meshing it all together.
While they likely will be no juggernaut, they should be a top-25 team all season. At the least, they should be contending to be conference champions once again.
By March, Villanova should be clicking on all cylinders and playing their best basketball. A good bet is Villanova will play beyond the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and possibly in Atlanta for the Final Four.
Prediction: 26-5 overall, 14-4 Big East.
Embed from Getty Images