2016-2017 Overall Rank: #7
Conference Rank: #1 Big East
Villanova had been knocking door of another national championship for the past few years but had continuously fell short in the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament. However, the 2015-16 edition of the Wildcats were not to be denied thanks to some well-rounded team basketball at both ends of the court. They earned their second national championship thanks to a Kris Jenkins three-point shot at the buzzer to beat North Carolina 77-74 in the national title game last April.
2015-16 Record: 35-5, 16-2
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jay Wright
Coach Record: 352-157 at Villanova, 476-242 overall
Replacing the duo of Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu will be a significant challenge for the Wildcats. Arcidiacono was the stabilizing veteran in the backcourt who could always find a way to make a clutch contribution at both ends of the court. Arcidiacono’s ability to take care of the basketball was also key last season as he had 169 assists to just 61 turnovers in 40 games. Ochefu was a big-time force down low in the paint for Villanova, scoring ten points per game. The 7.5 rebounds per game from Ochefu will also have to be replaced by multiple player in the paint.
Omari Spellman should come in right away and start in place of the departed Daniel Ochefu. Spellman has ideal versatility for a power forward and is ranked 16th in the ESPN Top100 for the class of 2016. If Spellman can produce from the perimeter as well as inside like he is capable of doing, then it will only make the Wildcats that much more dangerous. Dylan Painter should also provide some nice depth at forward as he averaged 22.5 points and 15.5 rebounds per game during his senior year of high school. Redshirt freshman Tim Delaney and Fordham transfer Eric Paschall will add more options in the frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
Villanova returns the best player in the Big East in senior guard Josh Hart. Hart averaged 15.5 points last season along with 6.8 rebounds per game as well. If Hart can match or surpass those numbers this season, it will help take some pressure off the rest of his teammates at both ends of the court. Kris Jenkins is back as well and he has continuously developed his game nicely throughout the course of his career. The offensive numbers were rock solid at 13.6 points per game and 39.4 percent shooting from three-point range for Jenkins last season. Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth combined for 16.6 points per game last season and a very good target for them would be 20-25 points per game from both players.
The Wildcats will get everyone’s best shot on their schedule this season as the reigning national champions. A trip to West Lafayette, Indiana to play Purdue on the opening weekend of the season will get things rolling to test Villanova. Mackey Arena is usually very loud and with the Wildcats coming to town you can expect the Boilermakers and their fans to be locked in and ready for that battle. Notre Dame, Temple and Virginia also highlight the home portion of the non-conference schedule as well. Big East play has two early road tests at Creighton on December 31st followed by a trip to Butler on January 4th. Xavier looks to be the biggest threat to the Wildcats in the race for the Big East title and they will visit on January 10th for the first of two battles with the Musketeers. If Villanova can start fast in conference play, it will give them plenty of room for error down the stretch as they finish with four of six on the road. This Wildcat team has the experience and talent to without question earn a return trip to the Final Four. It won’t be easy as Villanova could be a better team this season with the record not quite reflecting it at the end of the season. However, they still will produce a great season.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Josh Hart, Senior, Guard, 15.5 points per game
Jalen Brunson, Sophomore, Guard, 9.6 points per game
Phil Booth, Junior, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Kris Jenkins, Senior, Forward, 13.6 points per game
Omari Spellman, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.0 (57th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.6 (15, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.3 (15, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.3 (35, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.7 (46, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.2 (108, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 78.2 (2, 1)
Rebound Margin: 1.6 (139, 5)
Assists Per Game: 15.9 (34, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.0 (35, 2)
Madness 2017 NBA Draft Rankings:
#58 Josh Hart
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#19 Omari Spellman