Eric Dixon, Villanova Wildcats, Big East basketball

After a disappointing first season with the Villanova Wildcats, Kyle Neptune fields a roster with the makeup to win the Big East.

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We got so used to watching the Villanova Wildcats steamroll through the Big East during the latter years of Jay Wright that a 17-17 campaign was shocking. While some may blame first-year head coach Kyle Neptune, there’s no denying how much injuries messed up an otherwise talented Nova squad. Talented freshman Cam Whitmore and key scorer Justin Moore both missed the start of the season, with Moore only playing 13 total games.
Still, the Wildcats couldn’t turn things around in time, missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.
This year, the Wildcats have a team that could make it back to the Final Four for the fourth time in nine years. Moore is back for his graduate year. Eric Dixon also returns, giving Villanova an experienced 1-2 punch. Maryland transfer Hakim Hart, Richmond transfer Tyler Burton, and Washington State transfer TJ Bamba give Neptune an array of scorers all over the court.
Finally, sophomore point guard Mark Armstrong had a fine freshman season but could see a huge increase in production. He will have help off the bench with veterans Chris Arcidiacano and Jordan Longino. Kentucky transfer Lance Ware provides some depth underneath.
If all goes well, Villanova will be right back on the national scene in 2023-24.
Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.

Head coach: Kyle Neptune (3rd season overall, 2nd at Villanova)

2022-23 record: 17-17 (10-10)

2023 postseason finish: No postseason

Notable departures: Caleb Daniels (Pro), Cam Whitmore (NBA), Brandon Slater (Pro)

Notable non-conference games: vs. Maryland (Nov. 17), vs. Texas Tech (Nov. 22, in Bahamas), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 23-24), vs. St. Joe’s (Nov. 29), Big Five Classic (Dec. 2), at Kansas State (Dec. 5), vs. UCLA (Dec. 9)

Projected Rotation

PG: Mark Armstrong (6-2, 180, So.)

2022-23 stats: 5.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 APG

SG: Justin Moore (6-5, 210, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 13.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.2 APG, 34.1 3P%

SF: Hakim Hart (6-8, 205, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 11.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG (Maryland)

PF: Tyler Burton (6-7, 215, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 19.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 SPG (Richmond)

C: Eric Dixon (6-8, 255, Rs.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 15.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 37.8 3P%

6: TJ Bamba (6-5, 215, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 15.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 37.2 3P% (Washington State)

7: Chris Arcidiacono (6-4, 205, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 2.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 38.2 3P%

8: Lance Ware (6-9, 235, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 2.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.6 APG (Kentucky)

9: Jordan Longino (6-5, 215, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 5.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.0 APG

10: Brendan Hausen (6-4, 205, So.)

2022-23 stats: 3.1 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 0.4 APG, 42.9 3P%

11: Trey Patterson (6-9, 225, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 0.5 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 0.2 APG

Villanova Wildcats MVP: Eric Dixon

There are many great guards on this Villanova Wildcats team and Justin Moore will still likely be the go-to option. In fact, I’m projecting Moore to be the leading scorer for this team. However, Eric Dixon commands attention in the post and will make life so much easier for the rest of these Wildcats players.

Many of the Big East’s top big men are now gone, with Adama Sanogo at the forefront of that list. Of course, Ryan Kalkbrenner and Donovan Clingan are still around, but Dixon should be in that top tier. He has the track record to back it up, with two straight above-average campaigns, capping it off with career highs in PPG, RPG, and APG last season.

At 6-8, Dixon is a smaller center than most but makes up for it with his pure strength and attention to detail. Dixon has tremendous hands and feet for a big man, and can also hit at a high rate from outside. While he might not be an NBA prospect with more quickness, his skillsets are nearly unmatched in college hoops.

Villanova Wildcats make-or-break player: TJ Bamba

Is Bamba the right guy to bring off the bench? In my opinion, Bamba is worth starting, but it might make the most sense to bring him off the bench in favor of Hakim Hart. It would give Villanova more rebounding while providing the bench unit with more scoring, something they need. Even though it’s an experienced bench, Bamba would be a force in relief.

The potential for Bamba to really impact this Villanova team is off the charts. At Washington State he showed an ability to hit consistently from deep and finish driving to the bucket. Being such a pure scorer, Bamba shouldn’t be overlooked on a stacked Villanova roster.

Key analytic: APG

How will the point guard situation look this season? Last year, Nova only averaged 11.1 APG, 329th in the country. That won’t suffice, and with so many scorers on this team, it’ll be up to Armstrong to figure out how to distribute the ball evenly and efficiently.

Of course, not every team needs to be a pass-first squad. Some teams do well with isolation ball. But on this Wildcats team, it will be important to feed it to Dixon inside and swing the ball to limit stops on the perimeter.

Villanova Wildcats 2023-24 projections

Projected conference finish: 4th in the Big East

Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Final Four Appearance

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