Never change a winning team, right? Well, Villanova didn’t have much of a choice, since Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu were both in their senior year. The quest for repeat will start from coach Jay Wright most faithful soldiers, Kris Jenkins, he who hit the decisive shot in Houston, Josh Hart, who’s called to a POY-caliber season, and Jalen Brunson. Phil Booth, another hero of that final game against UNC, and Mikal Bridges will bring quick points, defense and athleticism. Omari Spellman has been declared ineligible, consequently his minutes in the frontcourt will be split among Darryl Reynolds, freshman Dylan Painter and Tim Delaney. At roster there are two players who might surprise this season: Donte DiVincenzo and transfer Eric Paschall, ex Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year with Fordham University and an exceptional athlete who can score from anywhere on the court.
The national title was the just conclusion of a perfect season for the Wildcats: third consecutive Big East title, number one in KenPom ranking, best team throughout the tournament, and that final shot to close the game made for an epic journey. And for the first time in university history, in February the Wildcats were first in the AP ranking too.
The coach: Jay Wright
In the one-and-done era coach Wright won the title with players who, despite not being top recruits, learned how to play as a team through chemistry and hard work. His double point-guard system grants solid defense and a fluid offense with four players on the perimeter.
Key player: Jalen Brunson (PG, So)
He is the most talented player at roster and he will have the unenviable task to replace Arcidiacono. For Nova to repeat, Brunson will have to prove he is a leader and run an offense, increasing those 2.5 assists per game he averaged last season, and be a better scorer (9.6 points per game as a freshman), while his defense is already elite. He is a top recruit, a rare sight for Villanova, and it’s time to show it.
Prospects: Josh Hart (SF, Sr), Jalen Brunson (PG, So), Kris Jenkins (PF, Sr)
Hart is pretty much an All-American, and he is at his best playing in a small ball system like Nova‘s: he has the strength to attack the rim or crash the boards and he is a credible threat from behind the arc. His long-distance shooting will be his calling card in the Nba and the one skill that might get him a call late in the first round. Jenkins is certainly an interesting player for European teams, but a great season might give him a chance in the second round.
Likely starting five
PG – Jalen Brunson (So)
G – Phil Booth (Jr)
SF – Josh Hart (Sr)
PF – Kris Jenkins (Sr)
C – Darryl Reynolds (Sr)
Relevant players from the past
Paul Arizin, Kerry Kittles, Tim Thomas, Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry.