After securing a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament in the 2013-2014 season, expectations were high for last season's Wildcats. They did an excellent job of living up to those expectations, winning their first 13 games of the season and becoming one of the last teams in the nation to lose their first game. Along the way, the Wildcats defeated both VCU and Michigan en route to winning the Legends Classic.
The Wildcats won the Big East Tournament over Xavier, and clinched a number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova defeated Lafayette with ease in the 2nd round, but fell in an upset to 8th seeded NC State in the 3rd round, ending the season for the Wildcats.
Key Losses: Darrun Hilliard (14.3 ppg, 1.8 spg), Dylan Ennis (9.9 ppg, 3.5 apg), JayVaughn Pinkston (9.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
One of the main reasons for Villanova's success last season was the depth they had on their roster. They had nine players who could put up a double digit point total any game. They still have a lot of talented players, but they also lost a few players who were vital to their gameplan.
Darrun Hilliard was their most talented scorer on offense in the 2014-2015 season. His talent was good enough to get drafted in the early second round by the Detroit Pistons after his four years at Villanova. It will be tough to replace the production he gave the Wildcats.
Dylan Ennis was a jack of all trades for the Wildcats. He was not only one of their top scorers, but he was also fourth in rebounds and second in assists. Ennis was also one of the most tenacious players in the Big East on defense.
JayVaughn Pinkston saw a drop in his scoring last season, but he was able to score from anywhere on the court. His 25 points in an overtime thriller against Syracuse was the main reason they kept their winning streak alive. Pinkston was a key part of this offense throughout his entire tenure at Villanova.
Key Returning Players: Ryan Arcidiacono (10.1 ppg, 3.6 apg), Josh Hart (10.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Daniel Ochefu (9.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg)
The Wildcats lost a few really talented players going into this season, but they also have a lot of fire power still on the team. Going into his senior season, Ryan Arcidiacono will be looked upon to be the vocal leader of the Wildcats. He averaged over 10 points per game and led the team in assists last season. The Wildcats will only go as far as he takes them.
Josh Hart will also take on a lot more responsibility on offense. Hart emerged as a viable scoring threat last season, averaging over 10 points per game. Jay Wright will be looking for Hart to take another leap and be one of the top scorers on the team once again.
Daniel Ochefu was the team's anchor in the post on defense last season. The 6'11" Ochefu contests everything in the post and alters any shot taken within 6 feet of the rim. Having a rim protector like Ochefu allows the perimeter defenders to take more risks and go for more steals. Villanova likes to run a full court press often, so being able to take more risks on defense is perfect for Wright's system.
X-Factor: Jalen Brunson
While losing Hilliard, Ennis, and Pinkston hurts most teams, Villanova has the added benefit of being able to get a lot of talented recruits. The top recruit for the Wildcats this season is guard Jalen Brunson. The 16th rated recruit in the nation, according to ESPN Recruiting pages, Brunson will be groomed to be the point guard of the future for the Wildcats. He has a great point guard to learn from in Arcidiacono, so it's up to Brunson how good he wants to be.
Once again, the Wildcats should be the top team in the Big East this season. They are loaded with talented upperclassmen and will look to become a number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament yet again. They have a couple of difficult non-conference matchups (vs #8 Oklahoma, @#6 Virginia) early on this season that will test their talent. Expect the Wildcats to finish as a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully this season they can avoid the early upset and make it to the sweet sixteen.
By: Dan Goggin
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