Villanova won their first outright Big East title since 1982 in 2014, ending a 32-year drought that stretched through a number of Nova greats like Kittles and Foye.
But head coach Jay Wright doesn't want to wait another 30 years for a conference title. Now, it's expected.
A 10-team conference was definitely an advantage for Villanova, who fought a good fight for years in a clustered Big East. When you think the Big East, you think Villanova, and that's a burden not many programs are fortunate to have.
This year, Nova brings back an experienced squad, led by seniors JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard. Pinkston anchors a front court with big man Daniel Ochefu, who shared Big East Most Improved Player honors with Hilliard and is one of the best bigs in the conference with the ball in his hands. A Joakim Noah-type passer in the post is great to have when your back court consists of Hilliard, junior Ryan Arcidiacono and sophomore Josh Hart, who is expected to make a big contribution now that he's inserted into the starting lineup.
Wright brings in a pair of ESPN 100 recruits in Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth, two four-star prospects that Wright will allow to grow as they learn under a veteran-driven team Complete with a supporting cast led by Kris Jenkins and Dylan Ennis, the Wildcats have the most dangerous line-up in the Big East.
So can they repeat? They'll need huge performances in these five games if another trophy is coming back to Villanova.
Dec 31 vs Butler - The Cats welcome what should be a vastly different Butler team that what we saw in 2014. These two teams reunite on New Years Eve, only this time they'll ring in the new year at the Pavilion. Nova needed overtime the first go-around, then blew out the Bulldogs on senior night, who were without forward Roosevelt Jones on both occasions. Jones returns this season, providing a healthy scoring option late in games. It won't be the flashiest ballgame, but it'll be the start of another great season in conference for the Wildcats.
Jan 3 at Seton Hall - Villanova went 16-3 in conference play last season. Two of those losses came against Creighton (COUGH COUGH Doug McDermott COUGH WHEEZE). The other? In the Big East tournament against Seton Hall. The Pirates stunned Nova in a back-and-forth contest that was almost sealed by a Hilliard jumper with under 8 seconds to go. But top scorer Sterling Gibbs raised up for a jumper and sank the hearts of Villanova fans everywhere that were hoping for a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. Seton Hall won't be any more competitive following the loss of Fuquan Edwin, but the Wildcats will definitely be looking to erase the bad taste of a one-and-done effort in the conference tourney.
Jan 31 at DePaul - Let's be honest: this game is only here because we're almost guaranteed two things: a Jalen Brunson appearance in his hometown, and a Villanova rout. Chicago is a phenomenal city to visit, though. I should know.
Feb 7 vs Georgetown - The two best teams on paper in the conference square off as the Hoyas meet Villanova on national television. FOX has the rights to this one, as these two rivals clash in Philadelphia. Georgetown brings in one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, including L.J. Peak, Paul White and Isaiah Copeland. D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera is now the No. 1 guy with Markel Starks gone, but his counterpart in the backcourt gives them some cause for concern. Jabril Trawick is a good player, but he's not the type of shooter that gives them the same dual-threat back court they possessed in 2014. Nova also has a leg up in terms of veteran leadership, which could be the Hoyas achilles heel when this bout takes place.
March 7 vs St. John's - It's Senior Night for Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston as they take on St. John's, who gave Villanova some trouble last year. The Wildcats needed a 10-2 run to pull away from the Red Storm late at Madison Square Garden, and outlasted the Johnnies when they came to Wells Fargo in February. Both victories were triggered by guard Ryan Arcidiacono. His steal led to a Kris Jenkins three in game one, and a triple of his own gave Nova a lead it didn't surrender in game two. Steve Lavin boasts a lineup featuring Big East Player of the Year candidate D`Angelo Harrison and sophomore Rysheed Jordan, making for some interesting match-ups on the floor with these two veteran programs.
Can Villanova be dethroned? Or will they reign again as Big East Champs? Let us know in the comments below.