Can Nova Reach the Ranks of the Blue Bloods?
Writer: Andrew Martin
When you think of the best teams in college basketball historically, or the “Blue Bloods” Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, UNC, and Indiana come to mind. However, Jay Wright and Villanova look to put themselves into that conversation heading into the 2018-19 season.
After winning two National Championships in the last three years, the Wildcats have vaulted into the realm of being one of the most dominant and respected teams in basketball. They’ve managed to overcome the one-and-done era on the backs of veteran stars like Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson, and Mikal Bridges.
However, Nova faces a different challenge this year. After losing Jalen Brunson (junior), Mikal Bridges (redshirt junior), Donte Divincenzo (redshirt sophomore), and Omari Spellman (redshirt freshmen) to the NBA, Jay Wright must get creative to make it to Minneapolis.
With the four top scorers from the 2017-18 title team gone, the Wildcats come into the year with their worst pre-season rank since 2014 at #9.
While this season may be a challenge for Villanova, there’s no reason we shouldn’t believe in Jay Wright. Since he got the Head Coaching job in 2001, he’s gone 422-165 with a .719 win-loss percentage. He hasn’t missed the tournament since 2005, and even has two Naismith Coach of the Year awards from 2006 and 2016.
The rest of the Villanova coaching staff quietly helped grab three 4-star recruits in PG Jahvon Quinerly, PF Cole Swider, and SF Brandon Slater. While doing so, Nova does get to bring back two redshirt seniors with Final Four experience in Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. They also grabbed the top grad transfer from Albany in Joe Cremo. It’s your classic Jay Wright Nova team, big guys down low to take up space with star shooters on the outside, like Cremo who shot 45.7% last year.
Pressure will get added to the veterans early in the season to mentor the former high school standouts as the Wildcats take on two of last years final four teams, #19 Michigan and #1 Kansas in the first month and a half of the season.
As we know, there’s nothing more important in college basketball than getting hot at the right time. Experience is what has gotten Nova to where they are now, but they can't fully rely on that anymore. In order to continue the push into the blue blood conversation, the Wildcats must get their new freshmen settled in by mid-season so that they have the confidence and endurance to make yet another March Madness run.
With a new College Basketball season upon us, and new challenges at the forefront, Villanova fans will put their trust in the man in the pinstripes one more time.
Regular season prediction: 26-3 (16-2)
Tournament Prediction: Elite 8