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Big East Preview: Villanova

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-North Texas at Villanova Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova has been a perennial powerhouse in the Big East for nearly a decade now and last season they continued that run. They finished 11-4 in conference play and 18-7 overall with and offense that ranked 6th in the country in efficiency. That’s nothing new for the Wildcats under Jay Wright since the last time Villanova ranked outside the top 20 in offense was 2014. Nova returned to the second weekend last season but were bounced by the eventual champs. This season, the Sweet Sixteen should be a mere stepping stone for squad loaded with returning talent.

Looking Ahead

Nova is loaded this year. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is the only notable departure after leading the team in scoring and rebounding last season. Cole Swider also transferred out after playing limited minutes but also shot over 40% from 3. Unfortunately for the rest of the Big East, Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, Jermaine Samuels and Caleb Daniels all return this season. Gillespie has been in college for over a decade by now and has been a perpetual thorn in the side for opponents. Justin Moore broke out last season alongside Gillespie in the backcourt and shot 56% from inside the arc. Jermaine Samuels has developed nicely in his time at Nova and averaged 12ppg and 6rpg last season while being a very efficient shooter. Caleb Daniels transferred in last season and transitioned into his new role rather well. He doesn’t dominate the ball but still averaged just shy of double figures last season.

Nova also added two 4 star recruits for the incoming class. Nnanna Njoku is a strong and athletic center with decent range on his jumper and good touch in the paint. He should also help defensive rebounding because of his size and physicality in the paint. Jordan Longino comes into a loaded backcourt and will most likely settle for bench minutes most of the season. Longino is a very capable scorer in the lane and from beyond the arc and has good athleticism and strength to not get bullied in his freshman season.

What’s the Verdict?

Nova is gonna be a problem this year. Preseason KenPom ranking has them at 9th and they are widely predicted to win the conference. Samuels and Gillespie are both playing their fifth season under Jay Wright and both are capable of making opponents lives miserable. Moore and Daniels are both good scorers and Njoku provides a solid paint presence that will free the guards up even more. The overall balance and depth of talent puts Nova in a great position to snag yet another Big East title and make another deep run in the tournament.