By John Fanta
FOX Sports activities School Basketball Author
Editor’s word: John Fanta is counting down his prime 15 school basketball groups at common intervals main as much as the beginning of the 2022-23 season. Checking in at No. 14 is Villanova.
What does life after Jay Wright maintain for Villanova males’s basketball? It is one of many largest questions within the sport getting into the 2022-23 marketing campaign.
It is also a query that none of us envisioned asking presently a 12 months in the past. However, Wright’s resolution to retire, which went public on April 20 and despatched shockwaves throughout the nation, was the beginning of an offseason like no different for the Wildcats program.
Jay Wright’s stunning retirement from Villanova
Mark Titus and Tate Frazier react after two-time nationwide champion Jay Wright introduced his retirement in April.
Sure, Villanova stayed within the household by hiring Kyle Neptune, who spent eight years as Wright’s assistant earlier than taking the top teaching job at Fordham for a season. Neptune has no plans to reinvent the wheel, and his aim is to maintain the Wildcats on the prime of the game.
Associated: Kyle Neptune needs to steer Villanova the Wright method
That stated, Wright took Villanova and elevated it to blue blood standing over the past decade, with nationwide championships in 2016 and 2018, and a 3rd journey to the Closing 4 in six NCAA Tournaments final April. The Cats have been the gold commonplace of the Massive East, successful at the very least the convention’s common season or event title every season because the league reconfigured in 2013.
After all, Wright, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Corridor of Fame inductee in 2021, is the principle motive for the rise of Villanova, however can the Wildcats maintain his components with out him?
The items are nonetheless in place for Villanova to be one of many nation’s finest but once more. Whereas Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels are gone, the Wildcats have 4 high-impact gamers again, plus the nation’s No. 21 recruiting class in keeping with 247 Sports activities.
Admittedly, the Wildcats get some good thing about the doubt to be included right here as a result of, over the past 9 years, they’ve gained greater than another program in school basketball with a file of … get this … 264-53.
Let’s break down the roster, and start with the highest storyline of Villanova’s season.
The Massive Query: When will Justin Moore again?
If Moore was wholesome heading into the season, Villanova might have a case as a preseason top-10 group and Massive East championship favourite. However on the night time of March 26, Moore’s profession, the Wildcats’ nationwide title hopes and the upcoming season took a serious flip for the more serious when he suffered a torn proper Achilles tendon within the regional ultimate win over Houston.
Earlier than that harm occurred, Moore was seen as a possible famous person for Villanova as a senior within the upcoming season, primed to steer the backcourt within the post-Gillespie period. Averaging 14.8 factors, 4.8 boards and a couple of.3 assists per sport final season, Moore would have doubtless been an All-Massive East Preseason First Workforce choice and a possible candidate for the convention participant of the 12 months.
His standing makes the upcoming Villanova season much more intriguing along with the change in management. Neptune and his employees are hopeful that the 6-foot-4 guard might be again someday in January, however with one thing as main as an Achilles harm, it is arduous to foretell a precise timeline, to not point out how a lot spring Moore may have when he does return to the ground. However, if he can come again and stand out, he would function a giant addition — nearly like a midseason commerce deadline transfer — and will completely change Villanova’s already stable March ceiling for the higher.
Of word on Villanova’s schedule, each of the Wildcats’ video games in opposition to Massive East front-runner Creighton will are available February (each airing on FOX as nicely), presumably after Moore’s return.
There will not be a single participant who might influence the late-season race — nor what the Wildcats transform — greater than the star guard, making the questions surrounding his return of excessive significance.
Getting into his sixth 12 months of school basketball, guard Caleb Daniels is the Wildcats’ main returning scorer. With Moore out, it is on the 6-foot-4 guard from New Orleans to function the chief of Villanova’s backcourt, and that is been a spotlight for Neptune and his employees this summer season. Daniels might want to take his sport to a different degree after he averaged 10.3 factors on 42% capturing final season. He confirmed his capability to carry out on the large stage within the NCAA Match, combining for 25 factors and 11 rebounds within the Elite Eight (win over Houston) and Closing 4 (loss to nationwide champion Kansas), respectively.
Elsewhere within the backcourt, search for sophomore guard Jordan Longino to tackle an elevated position this season. He solely averaged 8.8 minutes per sport over 26 contests earlier than injuring his knee forward of the NCAA Match, however the Wildcats will want him to tackle an even bigger position. There’s a sturdy risk that he begins.
The Wildcats even have Chris Arcidiacono — youthful brother of Villanova legend Ryan Arcidiacono — again for his senior season, and he’ll serve in a bench capability.
On the wing, Villanova has one of the crucial versatile gamers within the Massive East in fifth-year senior Brandon Slater. The 6-foot-8 ahead actually brings toughness to the Wildcats and will probably be relied upon to take action once more. Slater averaged almost half-hour per sport final season, posting 8.5 factors and three.7 boards per sport. In video games that he scored greater than 10 factors, Villanova went 11-3.
Brandon Slater throws down a MONSTER jam
Watch Villanova’s Brandon Slater fly in arduous for a giant dunk in opposition to the Windfall Friars final season.
Within the frontcourt, 6-foot-8 redshirt junior Eric Dixon was one of many largest surprises within the Massive East final season, proving that he might take over the five-spot for the Wildcats and arising huge a number of instances via their 30-8 season. Dixon began all 38 video games, posting 9.1 factors and 6.4 boards per sport whereas changing 50% of his pictures from him. His breakout 12 months led him to successful Philadelphia’s Massive 5 Most Improved Participant of the 12 months honor. Dixon will as soon as once more maintain issues down on the within, and he’s greater than able to being among the best bigs within the convention once more.
One of many key questions for the Wildcats is their sophomores, just because they did not get many alternatives to play final season. A pair of 6-foot-9 forwards, Trey Patterson and Nnanna Njoku, are reserved to regulate. Angelo Brizzi, who redshirted final season, will serve in a backup position.
Who’s new on the roster?
The Wildcats didn’t do something within the switch portal, one thing that is not out of the bizarre for his or her program. Villanova’s success has began with bringing in gamers who will keep three or 4 years, evolve and doubtlessly work their method into the NBA. This system has notched eight draft picks since 2017. Quite than fast fixes within the portal, the Wildcats have for essentially the most half succeeded by creating from inside.
That has meant that freshmen don’t usually play heavy minutes, however with Moore out and the losses of a few veteran studs, the doorway is open for a top-25 recruiting class to get some alternatives.
The headline title within the freshman trio is 6-foot-7 wing and five-star prospect Cam Whitmore, who dedicated to Villanova over North Carolina and Illinois. Named the Gatorade Maryland Boys Basketball Participant of the 12 months and a McDonald’s All-American, Whitmore ranked No. 14 within the 247 Sports activities class rankings. He’ll doubtless be named the Massive East Preseason Freshman of the 12 months and has an opportunity to be the Wildcats’ first one-and-done NBA Draft prospect since Tim Thomas in 1997.
Whitmore made a whole lot of noise this summer season, main USA Basketball to a gold medal on the FIBA U18 Americas Match with 18.7 PPG, together with a 30-point efficiency within the ultimate. Neptune has raved about Whitmore’s physicality and physique management over him. He has a college-ready physique and the transition must be simpler for him than most freshmen. Whitmore is aggressive and can assault the basket loads, and Villanova is a becoming place for him to proceed to develop his perimeter scoring. Following within the footsteps of Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges and different nice Wildcat wings, Whitmore ought to begin instantly.
Whitmore’s teammate on the USA Basketball U18 group was level guard Mark Armstrong, who will be part of him on the Important Line this season. Armstrong, a 6-foot-3 four-star recruit out of Saint Peter’s Prep in New Jersey, was Workforce USA’s main level guard on the gold medal run, averaging 10.7 factors and three.8 assists throughout the occasion. He broke the Saint Peter’s Prep scoring file in highschool with 1,776 profession factors. It is going to be attention-grabbing to see how Neptune manages Armstrong’s minutes, however he is a man who will probably be requested to step up, particularly with Moore not within the fold in at the very least the primary two months.
The opposite four-star prospect within the class is a 6-foot-4 sharpshooter from Texas, Brendan Hausen. Selecting Villanova over Texas Tech and Oklahoma, amongst others, Hausen’s perimeter vary suits proper in with the 3-point focus that has turn out to be such a staple to this system’s id. Hausen additionally completed his profession at Amarillo Excessive College as this system’s all-time main scorer.
This three-member freshman class, initially recruited by Wright, was re-recruited by Neptune throughout the management transition—and all three prospects reaffirmed their commitments to Villanova. That is yet one more signal of why it made sense for somebody so intently related to Wright and this system to be employed as his successor.
In recent times, I’ve heard individuals say that Villanova is boring. That is a part of life when all you do is win, and in addition a mirrored image of this system’s no-drama, all-business tradition.
The 2022-23 season would be the furthest factor from boring. With a number of new faces getting into this system, it will be intriguing to see if Villanova will stay on an elite pedestal.
Neptune definitely will not have a lot of a interval to ease into the top teaching job. Of the Wildcats’ 31 regular-season video games, 30 will come in opposition to energy convention competitors or within the Massive 5. A visit to Michigan State within the Gavitt Video games, the Phil Knight Invitational in Oregon throughout Thanksgiving Week and a house date with Oklahoma highlighted the group’s non-conference slate.
The Cats definitely possess the firepower to be among the many top-15 groups within the nation, and whereas this group might cope with some early hiccups as gamers tackle new roles, this group must be more and more harmful because the season goes on. The addition of Moore in some unspecified time in the future on the journey may be a season-changer.
Sure, this 12 months on the Important Line carries no scarcity of storylines. With how profitable this system has been, a wealthy recruiting class, and Wright nonetheless round as a sounding board for Neptune, Villanova stands at No. 14 in our preseason rankings.
Prime 15 countdowns:
John Fanta is a nationwide school basketball broadcaster and author for FOX Sports activities. He covers the game in a wide range of capacities, from calling video games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Community to offering commentary on The Area of 68 Media Community. Comply with him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
Get extra from School Basketball Comply with your favorites to get details about video games, information and extra.