Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats will enter the 2018-19 season as the defending champions for the second time in three years. Villanova had one of the most dominant tournament runs in history last season, steamrolling through the competition and winning every game by double digits. The Wildcats were so good that four of their key players left early for the NBA, which means that some players will have to step up this season. But that’s a cheap price to pay for a national championship.
Projected Starting Lineup
Villanova’s starting lineup in game one of the season against Morgan St. was:
Phil Booth (RS-SR)
Collin Gillispie (SO)
Jermaine Samuels (SO)
Eric Paschall (RS-SR)
Dylan Painter (RS-SO)
Booth and Paschall are the only real locks to be in the starting lineup moving forward, though. The final three spots are up for grabs and could fluctuate throughout the season.
The first Nova player selected in the draft, Bridges will be a significant loss. However, his departure after last season was expected and Jay Wright’s 2018 recruiting class featured very solid wing depth.
The POY in college basketball last season, it will be impossible to replace Brunson this season. However, like Bridges, his departure was expected, and Wright was able to land the number one ranked point guard in the 2018 class.
Unlike Brunson and Bridges, the departure of the Final Four MOP was not expected. DiVincenzo’s historic performance in the national championship game against Michigan put him on the NBA radar, and he ended up being the 17th pick in the draft.
Like DiVincenzo, Spellman’s departure was unexpected, and it shows. The biggest hole on Nova’s roster entering the 2018-19 season is likely the lack of center depth.
Quinerly committed to Arizona over Villanova before last season, but after he was at the center of the wire tapping scandal, he de-commited and chose Nova. Quinerly was the number one ranked point guard in the class and he will play a major role this season. Expect the Booth-Quinerly backcourt to operate similarly to the Arcidiacono-Brunson backcourt in 2015-16.
Cremo is a graduate transfer from Albany who committed to Villanova over Kansas last spring. Jay Wright went after him after DiVincenzo’s departure. Cremo will spend just one season on the Main Line, but he will have a key role off of the bench – or potentially even in the starting lineup at times – as a shooter. Cremo was one of the best shooters from deep in the country last season, and he already started off the season 3-5 from deep in Nova’s opener.
Swider is a highly regarded recruit who will play a role this season, but the significance of that role is TBD. It’s possible he establishes himself as a key cog off of the bench, it’s also possible that he gets the Jermaine Samuels treatment and spends his freshman year out of the rotation. Swider could excel as a stretch four and a potential Swider/Paschall front court could be lethal offensively depending on Swider’s development.
Slater was Nova’s third top 50 recruit, but he likely won’t play a ton his freshman year. Slater is an athletic wing who has drawn Josh Hart comparisons, but with Nova’s crowded depth at the wing, he’s more likely to redshirt than play a significant role. If Jermaine Samuels struggles again this season, Slater could find his way into the rotation. But all reports from Nova are that Samuels is primed for a big season, so that’s unlikely. Slater is a legitimate NBA prospect, but it’s hard to see him in the 2018-19 rotation.
Bey was a very late get in the recruiting process, as he committed to Villanova in June after de-commiting from NC State in May. Like Slater, he’s unlikely to get into the rotation this season. Expect him to redshirt this year.
Villanova’s two key players in 2018-19 will be their two seniors, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. Booth will finally get his chance to run the Villanova offense in his 5th season at Villanova. He has been a secondary ball handler to Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson during his Nova career to this point, but he will be taking that role this season. Booth reportedly dropped 40 points against UNC when Nova scrimmaged them in the preseason, and he may be a sleeper POY candidate.
Eric Paschall was one of the best defenders in the country last season, and it was surprising that he didn’t test the NBA waters after the season. He will play a Draymond Green-like role for the Wildcats this season, anchoring the defense and also facilitating the offense at times. Paschall’s shooting could be an x-factor for the team this season. Last season, he started the season 2-27 from deep, before shooting a whopping 46% from deep on about three attempts per game in Big East play. Paschall has been mocked as a first round pick in preseason mock drafts, and if he shoots like he did down the stretch last season, he could be a lottery pick.
Villanova will likely get off to a bit of a slow start, relative to past years. They will be integrating many new players and also losing four NBA talents from last season. However, this could the deepest team Jay Wright has ever had on the Main Line. There are legitimately twelve guys on the team who could push for a rotation spot. So while Nova will likely get off to a slow start, they could be as good as any team in the country come March. A third national championship in four years is not out of the question for Villanova. And with arguably the best recruiting class in the country in 2019, the Villanova dynasty is just beginning.
Key Non-Conference Games
Nov. 14: vs Michigan
Nov. 23: vs Memphis/Oklahoma State (Advocare Invitational)
Nov. 25: vs Charleston/LSU/UAB/Florida State (Advocare Invitational)
Dec. 5: vs Temple
Dec. 8: vs St. Joe’s
Dec. 15: @ Kansas