Prior to last season the last time the Villanova Wildcats had missed the NCAA tournament was the 2012 season. In that year Jay Wright’s team was knocked out of the Big East tournament by Rutgers. In the next ten years Nova would make three Final Fours, win two national championships, and win 25 games in the NCAA tournament. They won the Big East outright six times in that span. They were a college basketball dynasty.
Then, Jay Wright left. Last season the Wildcats fell off a cliff. They finished 10-10 in the Big East, lost in the second round of the BET, and then were eliminated from the NIT after having to travel to Liberty. Nova tried to play the same way they always have, but the shots didn’t fall and the defense was uninspiring. A late season run wasn’t good enough to save the team, and they faded out into the kind of year their fans don’t expect.
Brandon Slater is, literally, the big one. The 6-8 forward was nails from the line last season and averaged almost 10 a game. Guard Caleb Daniels is also gone. Daniels went for 14.2/4.5/2.5, was second on the team in scoring and first in minutes. His loss will be felt heavily, as will that of Cam Whitmore. Whitmore was a one and done from the moment he stepped on campus. He did a little bit of everything and did it all well. The good news for the Wildcats is that those three are the only significant losses. The bad news is that all three were absolutely vital pieces.
Justin Moore. Moore was injured and only played 13 games last year. He is Nova’s best player and is a guard who can and will score at all three levels. The Wildcats are a much better team when he is on the floor, and that showed last year. Eric Dixon, Villanova’s most efficient offensive player, is also back. He’s a load inside and is a threat on the offensive glass. Jordan Longino is back in an expanded role as well this season. He’s a swing forward who will shoot from outside, but is more effective in near the rim. Chris Arcidiacono is back as well. There really isn’t a statistic that suggests he does anything terribly well, but he played a lot last year. Mark Armstrong and Brandon Hausen are back as two halves of a great player. Hausen is a knock down three point shooter who does almost literally nothing else. Armstrong is a pass first guard who really values the ball and really can’t shoot.
Kyle Neptune brought in one freshman, Jordann Dumont, and he hasn’t played a minute yet. Tyler Burton came in from Richmond. He’s a fearless rebounder despite being 6-7 and a fearless three point shooter despite being bad at it. Hakim Hart is a big who profiles more as a shooter. He chucks a lot and without great success from deep, but he’s extremely effective inside the arc. TJ Bamba is a transfer from Washington St who can flat out score the ball. He averaged an efficient nearly 16 per game. He is not related to Mo and does not have a cool rap song about him.
Nova is going to go as far as their retuning players take them. TJ Bamba is a stud, but the other incoming players are going to have to slot in as rotation guys. Still, there are worse things to rely on than Justin Moore and Eric Dixon. If Kyle Neptune can fit those guys in with the incoming players, this team will deserve their preseason ranking. If not, they might do something dumb like lose to Penn.