Head Coach: Jay Wright
Preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll: #1
Big East and Beyond Poll: #1
National AP Poll: #12
Last Year’s Record: 29-5 (16-2, 1st in Big East)
Last Year’s Result: 2013-2014 resulted in a terrific year for Jay Wright’s program; if you forget about when they played the Creighton Bluejays. An upset win over Kansas in the Bahamas sprung Villanova onto the national spotlight in November and they never took their foot off the gas pedal after that. The regular season champion Wildcats entered the NCAA tournament as a number 2 seed after bowing to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament. ‘Nova beat the number 15 seeded Milwaukee Panthers by 20 in the opening round before being bounced out by the Shabazz Napier led Connecticut Huskies. The Wildcats went back to Philadelphia to watch the Huskies go on to win the National Championship.
No Longer Here (1 starter: James Bell, 1 contributor: Tony Chennault): No offense to Chennault, who played a solid role for this team as the backup point guard to Ryan Arcidiacono, but the real loss here is Bell. After a so-so sophomore and junior year, James Bell exploded his senior year leading the Wildcats in scoring with 14.4 points a game. Even though he was a natural wing, he was able to log minutes at the 4 without costing Villanova too much on the glass.
Who is back (4 of 5 Starters: Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard, JayVaughn Pinkston, Daniel Ochefu, 3 contributors: Dylan Ennis, Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins): All these names returning and it is easy to see why the defending champs are considered to be the class of the Big East in 2014. Hilliard and Pinkston are both seniors now and will score the ball (averaged 14.3 and 14.1 respectively last year), while junior Arcidiacono runs the show at point guard. Ochefu is the lone center on this team and is their rim protector inside. Ennis, Hart, and Jenkins all contributed valuable minutes to Jay Wright and will collectively look to fill the hole that Bell has left behind.
Who is new (Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges): A pair of ESPN top 100 recruits, Booth is a combo-guard from Maryland, while Bridges plays on the wing. Both look to add an impact early on by giving the Wildcats more depth which is never a bad thing. Jay Wright’s style of playing the five best players regardless of position should help Boothe and Bridges get on to the court as freshman.
Why they will succeed: The 13-19 record in 2012 feels like an awfully long time ago as Villanova is now the heavy favorite in the second year of the new-look Big East. This team has a great amount of experience and depth. Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston should both prove to be first team all-conference selections by the end of the year. Arcidiacono’s steady leadership will keep everyone focused and guys like Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins should take steps forward in their sophomore seasons. Daniel Ochefu will dominate inside and a guy like Dylan Ennis can potentially take a big step up for the Wildcats.
Why there should be concern: Will the lack of depth on the interior hold back the Wildcats this year? Daniel Ochefu’s health is extremely important because this team needs all the mileage they can get out of him at the center. James Bell may have covered up the rebounding deficiencies for this team last year. This year guys like Kris Jenkins and Mikal Bridges will have to provide this rebounding from the wing this year.
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