Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright

Villanova basketball looks to go for a third title over the past decade.

Villanova basketball is ready to run the Big East again, returning all of its starters except a star and only losing one rotational player. Coach Jay Wright has kept a strong squad as this team finished the 2020-21 season as regular-season champions. The Wildcats lost in the conference tournament to Georgetown but made it to the NCAA Tournament with no issues.

After finishing the year 18th in the AP Poll, this team entered the tournament without Collin Gillespie, who tore his MCL against Creighton on March 3, 2021. Villanova basketball finished the season 18-7 and 11-4 in conference play. The 11-4 in conference play was good enough to finish first in the conference. The Wildcats NCAA tournament run included defeating Winthrop and North Texas before falling to Baylor 62-51.

Villanova basketball lost its massive star in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Robinson-Earl was picked at the end of the first round of the NBA Draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Cole Swider, a rotation forward who transferred to Syracuse, and the only other player for Villanova not listed on this year’s roster was Kevin Hoehn. He graduated to start his professional career. Coach Jay Wright brought in Nnanna Njoku, a 4-star center, Jordan Longino, a 4-star shooting guard, and a 3-star combo guard in Angelo Brizzi.

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Projected Rotation

PG: Collin Gillespie (6-3, 190, Sr.)

2021 stats: 14.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.0 steals

Projected stats: 14.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.3 steals

SG: Justin Moore (6-4, 210, Jr.)

2021 stats: 12.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists

Projected stats: 13.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists

SF: Caleb Daniels (6-4, 210, Rs. Jr.)

2021 stats: 9.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 38.6 3P%

Projected stats: 10.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 39.3 3P%

PF: Brandon Slater (6-6, 211, Sr.)

2021 stats: 3.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.8 steals

Projected stats: 7.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals

C: Jermaine Samuels (6-7, 230, Sr.)

2021 stats: 12.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 37.1 3P%

Projected stats: 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 37.8 3P%

6:Bryan Antoine (6-5, 180, Jr.)

2021 stats: 2.3 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.5 steals

Projected stats: 6.1 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals

7: Eric Dixon (6-8, 260, Rs. So.)

2020 stats: 3.0 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.3 assists

Projected stats: 5.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.6 assists

8: Chris Arcidiacono (6-5, 196, Jr.)

2021 stats: 0.9 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists

Projected stats: 1.2 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.0 assist

9: Trey Patterson (6-8, 210,  So.)

2020 stats: 0.0 points, 0.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals

Projected stats: 4.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 steals

10: Dhamire Cosby-Roundtree (6-9, 235, Sr.)

Career stats: 3.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals

Projected stats: 3.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.3 steals

11: Jordan Longino (6-5, 195, Fr.)

247Sports 4-star rated recruit

Projected stats: 1.2 points, 0.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists

12: Nnanna Njoku (6-8, 175, Fr.)

247Sports 4-star rated recruit

Projected stats: 2.0 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists

Team MVP: Collin Gillespie

Villanova basketball is lucky to have Collin Gillespie back for another year. Still not being lucky enough to enjoy a postseason, the Wildcats are thankful to have a dominant and experienced guard coming back to lead this team. Coach Jay Wright has another coach in this player actively on the floor. Gillespie can do it all and is an excellent point guard. He was eight in assists (92), third in assists per game (4.6), and tied for third in free throw percentage (83.3%). Gillespie has had some unfortunate luck, and if he will return as solid coming off the MCL injury.

Since he was a freshman, Coach Jay Wright has had a lot of faith in Gillespie and played above his year. With Villanova basketball, Collin Gillespie is tenth in points produced per game (14.5) and fifth in assist percentage (26.6). Beyond that, his advanced stats show how valuable he is on the offensive side of the floor, with a top 3 offensive rating in the Big East, Offensive Box Plus/minus, Box Plus/minus, player efficiency, win share per 40 minutes, and offensive win shares. Collin Gillespie was also named player for the Big East and named the first-team All-Big East.

Make or Break Player: Jermaine Samuels

Jermaine Samuels has some big shoes to fill after Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has been a massive part of the Villanova basketball team. He is a very talented replacement, can play inside and out, has excellent bounce and footwork. He can easily step up to replace Robinson-Earl.

The giant hole left by Robinson-Earl gives away great opportunity to Samuels. Robinson-Earl was seventh in points (393) in the Big East, seventh in points per game (15.7), second in total rebounds (212), second in total rebounds per game (8.5), fourth in offensive rebounds (62), and third in defensive rebounds (150). The advanced stats are the most opportunity for Samuels with minutes played, points produced per game, and usage percentage.

Jermaine Samuels is top 5 in free throw percentage (82.8%), fourth in actual shooting percentage (60.2%), seventh in free throws (77), tenth in free throw attempts (93), fifth in player efficiency rating (22.5), fourth in win shares (3.8), and third in offensive win shares (2.9). Samuels advanced stats showed he was first in win shares per 40 minutes, box plus/minus, offensive box plus/minus, and offensive rating (128.4) in the Big East.

With all of these stats, Samuels has the right abilities to be a considerable asset for Villanova basketball and be absolute havoc in the big east. He needs to focus on getting to the basketball and rebounding to fill the space left by Robinson-Earl.

Bench Rating: 6/10

Villanova basketball is again set at the starters and has viable options that allow for a strong rotation. The depth isn’t there for this team. There is some experience on the bench, but the points and usage are so minimal.

The Wildcats are made up of eight guards and seven forwards. The eight guards go from three seniors, three juniors, and two freshmen. The six forwards are also spread out among three seniors, two sophomores, and a freshman.

These players could easily be solid contributors, but this is not an area that Villanova basketball does not do. Antoine and Dixon are very key players but won’t need to score 10 points every game like how most teams run. The Wildcats develop players to be experienced if they don’t just immediately show talent and value. This team has players that can replace others when in need but rely heavily on the starters.

Analytic to Know: Assists to Turnover Ratio

Villanova basketball is the second-best team in all of the nation with an assist to turnover ratio of 1.648:1. This statistic isn’t a surprise with a leader like Collin Gillespie and a coach like Jay Wright on the value of the basketball. Villanova basketball averaged 9.1 turnovers per game or 12.1% turnover per play. The Wildcat culture has been built on taking care of the basketball while also sharing the ball.

Team Outlook

Villanova basketball has a solid non-conference schedule that will allow this team to coast into the NCAA tournament. This team non-conference schedule includes Mount St. Mary’s, UCLA, Howard, La Salle, Penn, and Saint Joseph’s University. Another asset to their schedule is being a part of the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic, where the team plays Tennessee and then will play North Carolina or Purdue.

The Wildcats will play in the Jimmy V Classic where they play against Syracuse and Big East-Big 12 Battle where the team faces the team that knocked them out of the NCAA tournament last year and last year’s champion in Baylor University.  The Big East already has a strong conference, and the conference schedule should also allow the team entry into the NCAA Tournament.

Projected Finish: 1st in the Big East

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Exit

Ceiling: NCAA National Championship Appearance


Featured image from Sportscasting