by John Fanta
FOX Sports activities School basketball author
Editor’s Notice: John Fanta counts down the highest 15 school basketball groups at common intervals till the beginning of the 2022-23 season. Verify-in at quantity 14 is Villanova.
What does life maintain after Jay Wright males’s basketball at Villanova? It is one of many greatest questions within the sport getting into the 2022-23 marketing campaign.
It is also a query none of us would have imagined asking presently a yr in the past. However Wright’s resolution to retire, which was introduced on April 20 and despatched shock waves throughout the nation, was the beginning of an unparalleled season for the Wildcats.
Jay Wright’s surprising retirement from Villanova
Mark Titus and Tate Fraser react after two-time Nationwide Champion Jay Wright introduced his retirement in April.
Sure, Vilanova stayed within the household by hiring Kyle Neptune, who spent eight years as Wright’s assistant earlier than taking the pinnacle teaching place at Fordham for a season. Neptune has no plans to reinvent the wheel, and its objective is to maintain the Wildcats forward of the game.
RELATED: Kyle Neptune Desires to Drive Villanova Wright’s Means
Nonetheless, Wright has taken Villanova and elevated him to the rank of blue-blooded over the previous decade, with the Nationwide Championships in 2016 and 2018, and a 3rd journey to the Last 4 in six NCAA tournaments this previous April. The Cats have been the gold customary within the Large East, successful at the very least an everyday season convention or championship title each season for the reason that league was reshaped in 2013.
After all, Wright, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Corridor of Fame in 2021, is the primary purpose for Vilanova’s look, however can the wildcats keep his system with out him?
The items are nonetheless in place till Villanova turns into probably the greatest items within the nation as soon as once more. Whereas Colin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels are gone, the Wildcats have regained 4 high-impact gamers, in addition to the nation’s twenty first recruiting class in keeping with 247 Sports activities.
Admittedly, the Wildcats get some profit from the doubt to be included right here as a result of, over the previous 9 years, they’ve received greater than every other school basketball program with a document…get this… 264-53.
Let’s break down the checklist and begin with the primary story of the Villanova season.
The large query: When? Justin Moore I will come again?
If Moore is wholesome because the season approaches, Villanova may have standing as a top-10 pre-season group and a Large East favourite. However on the night time of March 26, Moore’s profession, and the Wildcats’ hopes for the nationwide title and subsequent season, took a serious flip for the more severe when he suffered a ruptured proper Achilles tendon within the closing regional win over Houston.
Earlier than that damage occurred, Moore was seen as a possible star man for Vilanova subsequent season, and he was poised to guide the backcourt within the post-Gilspie period. With a mean of 14.8 factors, 4.8 plates, and a pair of.3 assists per recreation final season, Moore was seemingly the primary all-mid-season decide up and a possible candidate for Convention Participant of the 12 months.
His status makes Villanova’s upcoming season much more attention-grabbing in addition to the change in management. Neptune and his employees are hoping the 6-foot-4 Ranger will probably be again someday in January, however with one thing as large as an Achilles damage, it is arduous to foretell a particular timeline, not to mention how a lot spring Moore could have when he isn’t again in Earth. However, if he can come again and stand out, he could be an enormous plus – nearly as a lot because the mid-season buying and selling deadline transfer – and will change Villanova’s already robust March cap for the higher.
Of observe on Vilanova’s schedule, each of the Wildcats’ matches in opposition to Large East chief Creighton are developing in February (each airing on FOX as properly), seemingly after Moore’s return.
There is probably not a single participant who can affect the late season race – nor what the Wildcats appear – greater than the star guard, which makes the questions surrounding his comeback very related.
Goalkeeper Caleb Daniels is getting into his sixth yr in school basketball and is the Wildcats’ main returning scorer. With Moore out, a 6-foot-4-foot guard from New Orleans to be Villanova’s yard captain, that is been the main focus of Neptune and his employees this summer season. Daniels might want to take his recreation to a different degree after averaging 10.3 factors versus 42% in capturing final season. He demonstrated his capacity to carry out on the large stage within the NCAA Championship, gathering 25 factors and 11 rebounds within the Elite Eight (a win over Houston) and the Last 4 (a loss to champions Kansas), respectively.
Elsewhere within the backcourt, search for sophomore guard Jordan Longino to tackle an even bigger function this season. He averaged simply 8.8 minutes per recreation over 26 competitions earlier than injuring his knee previous to the NCAA Championships, however the Wildcats will want him for an even bigger function. There’s a robust chance that it’ll begin.
The Wildcats have additionally introduced Chris Arsidicono again – the youthful brother of Villanova legend Ryan Arsidicono – for his first season, and he will probably be engaged on the bench.
On the wing, Villanova has one of many Large East’s most versatile gamers in yr 5 Brandon Slater. The 6-foot-8 striker actually brings solidity to the Wildcats and will probably be counted on to take action once more. Slater averaged practically half-hour per recreation final season, scoring 8.5 factors and three.7 plates per recreation. In matches during which he scored greater than 10 factors, Vilanova led 11-3.
Brandon Slater throws monster jam
Watch Villanova’s Brandon Slater fly arduous for an enormous immersion in opposition to the Windfall Friars final season.
Within the entrance zone, 6-foot-8 younger Eric Dixon was one of many greatest surprises final season, proving that he may take fifth for the wildcats and climb much more instances through the 30-8. season. Dixon began all 38 video games, scoring 9.1 factors and 6.4 plates per recreation whereas changing 50% of his photographs. His distinguished yr led him to win the Philadelphia High 5 Participant of the 12 months award. Dixon will as soon as once more hold issues indoors, and he is greater than able to being probably the greatest large guys within the conference as soon as once more.
One of many major questions for the Wildcats is their sophomores, just because they did not get many alternatives to play final season. A pair of 6-foot-9 forwards, Trey Patterson and Nana Ngoku, are booked for remark. Angelo Brizzi, who was late final season, will serve in a backup function.
Who’s new on the checklist?
The Wildcats did not do something on the switch gate, which is uncommon for his or her program. Vilanova’s success started with bringing in gamers who would keep three or 4 years, develop and doubtlessly make their method into the NBA. This system has made eight draft picks since 2017. As a substitute of fast fixes within the gate, the Wildcats have principally succeeded by growing from inside.
Which means freshmen do not normally play the arduous minutes, however with Moore out and two veteran pairs shedding, the door is open for the High 25 recruiting class to get some probabilities.
The principle title within the new trio is 6-foot-7 winger and five-star Cam Whitmore, who dedicated to Villanova over North Carolina and Illinois. Named the Gatorade Maryland Boys’ Basketball Participant of the 12 months and McDonald’s All-American, Whitmore ranked No. 14 within the 247 Athletic Class rankings. He’ll seemingly be named New Pupil of the 12 months within the Large East Preseason and have an opportunity to be the first-time Wildcats to have finished within the NBA since Tim Thomas in 1997.
Whitmore made loads of noise this summer season, main NBA to the FIBA Below-18 Americas Gold Medal with 18.7 PPG, together with a 30-point efficiency within the closing. Neptune was desirous about Whitmore’s bodily physique. He has a school prepared physique and the transition ought to be simpler for him than most freshmen. Whitmore is aggressive and can assault basketball loads, and Villanova is an effective place for him to additional develop his objectives in his neighborhood. Within the footsteps of Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges and different nice Wildcat wingsuits, Whitmore ought to begin straight away.
Whitmore’s teammate on the USA Below-18 Basketball group was goalkeeper Mark Armstrong, who will be a part of him on the primary streak this season. A 6-foot-3, 4-star recruit of Saint Peter’s Prep in New Jersey, Armstrong was the first guard for Group USA within the Gold Medal Collection, averaging 10.7 factors and three.8 assists through the occasion. He broke the document set for Saint Peter’s Prep in highschool with 1,776 profession factors. It is going to be attention-grabbing to see how Neptune manages Armstrong’s minutes, however he is the man who will probably be requested to step up, particularly with Moore not within the fold for at the very least the primary two months.
One other four-star prospect within the class is Texas sniper Brendan Hausen. When selecting Villanova over Texas Tech and Oklahoma, amongst others, the Hausen perimeter vary suits proper in with the 3-point focus that has develop into a staple of this system’s id. Hausen additionally ended his profession at Amarillo Excessive Faculty as this system’s all-time main scorer.
Initially assigned by Wright, this three-member freshman class was recruited by Neptune through the Management Transition—and the three prospectives reaffirmed their commitments to Villanova. That is one other signal of why it is sensible to nominate somebody carefully associated to Vibrant and the Program as his successor.
In recent times, I’ve heard folks say Villanova is boring. This is part of life when all you do is win, and it is also a mirrored image of the present’s non-dramatic tradition.
The 2022-23 season will probably be removed from boring. With so many new faces getting into the programme, it will likely be attention-grabbing to see if Villanova stays on the elite base.
Actually, Neptune is not going to have a lot time to ease into the primary coaching perform. Of the Wildcats’ 31 common season video games, 30 will come in opposition to a convention energy competitors or within the Large 5. A visit to Michigan on the Gavitt Video games, a Phil Knight Invitational in Oregon throughout Thanksgiving week and a house date with Oklahoma highlights the group’s non-conference roster.
The Cats positive have the firepower to be among the many prime 15 groups within the nation, and whereas this group can deal with some early hiccups as gamers tackle new roles, this one ought to be an more and more harmful group because the season rolls on. Including Moore sooner or later within the journey may change the season.
Sure, this yr on the primary line is just not missing in storylines. With the present’s success, a rich recruiting class, and Wright nonetheless present because the vocal platform for Neptune, Villanova stands at quantity 14 within the pre-season rankings.
High 15 Countdown:
John Fanta is a Nationwide School Basketball announcer and author for FOX Sports activities. It covers sports activities in quite a lot of capacities, from invoking video games on FS1 to serving as the primary host on the BIG EAST Digital Community to offering commentary on The Discipline of 68 Media Community. Observe him on Twitter @John Fanta.
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