Countdown to College Basketball: #9 Villanova Wildcats

 What Jay Wright has done at Villanova has been extraordinary, winning the Big East has become the new normal, and winning two National Championships has this program expecting more. With Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels coming back for a NCAA Covid free year, this program is once again back in a position to win the Big East. Now the question becomes whether this is the team ready to deliver the team’s third National Championship, as this experienced roster certainly has the potential to achieve that feat. 

In the backcourt, Collin Gillespie represents everything you could want in a team leader. On the court, he’s a good passer, solid defender, good shooter, and like many Villanova guards, a good post-up scorer. Gillespie also acts as one of the great team leaders, he’s has all the intangibles, has a high basketball IQ, and does this all while being a below-average athlete. Gillespie should continue to be a great leader, while his stability on the court will allow this team to thrive this season, knowing they’ll have an advantage at the point at all times.

Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels will hope to become the player that takes the leap into becoming a First Team All-Big East type of player. Moore seems like the prime candidate for that, the 6’4 guard is a really solid basketball player, who has the ability to become more of a primary option with JRE off to the pros. Like many other Villanova guards, he’s great at scoring around the rim, while his three-point shot didn’t fall last year, he’s a good shooter, who now will have more leeway to score from the perimeter. Jermaine Samuels is a really good four-man, who while hasn’t broken out like many expected, is a good basketball player. Samuels is a 6’7 wing that is a solid shooter, capable driver and is an effective defender. Should Samuels make a major improvement scoring-wise, he has a chance to be the best player on this roster. 

Caleb Daniels will start at the 3 for this team and will allow the floor-spacing to remain intact. Daniels is a consistent near 40% three-point shooter, who is a good passer, and defender, making him a three-tool threat. Eric Dixon looks to fill out the starting rotation at the five, Dixon is a 6’8 forward that is a tough, physical big man, who is a good rebounder, capable interior scorer, although he’s limited in the upside that he brings, he’s a winning basketball player. Brandon Slater also might start if Villanova goes super small, Slater is an energetic wing that is a solid shooter but is best known for his ability to lock down the opponent’s best scorer, which might get him the starting job. 

While Villanova has a solid group of veterans, the key to their long-term success comes from their youth. Trey Patterson could ultimately end up sliding in as the starting five, the 6’9 versatile forward projects as a solid interior scorer, plus matches up as a switchable defender, plus his ability to space the floor will help this team. Angelo Brizzi looks to be the next Ryan Arcidiacano/ Collin Gillespie, as he will be a good floor general, plus his shooting is extremely elite. Jordan Longino could possess some shooting touch to help this team, while Nnanna Njoku could play some minutes at the 5. Another key will be the health of Bryan Antoine, the former five-star recruit projects to be a high-scoring guard but has never been able to stay healthy. 

The Wildcats are an interesting team that I almost think is caught in between generations. While returning Gillespie and Samuels for a Covid year is certainly not going to hurt, they also lack the overall upside to be anything more than high-end role players. That means a lot of this team’s success comes down to Justin Moore, Brandon Slater, and the younger pieces taking a big step forward. Moore has to be able to take a step forward as a scorer and be a high-level scorer. The younger players like Slater, Patterson, and Antoine also will have to produce for this team. 

Villanova is still going to win the Big East and do so running away from the pack. This Wildcats team simply has more talent, better coaching, and better players than the rest of their league. With Villanova, it ultimately comes down to winning six games in March, and that is where I’m not quite buying in on Villanova. While the defense will continue to be Top-10 in the sport, the offense has to match it. Yes, there are players that can make plays, but that doesn’t always work against great teams. At the end of the day, winning a Championship requires players that can break down any defense and score at will or having an overabundance of talent that it doesn’t matter who’s on or not, and I’m not sure Villanova has either of that. 

Projected Rotation 

PG: Collin Gillespie 

SG: Justin Moore

SF: Caleb Daniels

PF: Jermaine Samuels

C: Eric Dixon

B1: Brandon Slater

B2: Angelo Brizzi

B3: Trey Patterson

B4: Bryan Antoine

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