Entering his 19th season as head coach of the Villanova Wildcats, Jay Wright isn’t returning to the Pavilion empty-handed. Winning last season’s BIG EAST Coach of the Year for a league-record sixth time, Wright has also solidified himself as the all-time winningest coach for the Wildcats.
What Happened Last Year
The start of the 2018-19 season found ‘Nova in a fairly unfamiliar position, at least among recent years. Facing a dearth of experienced talent to the NBA, the Wildcats debuted fresh-faced and with a healthy share of growing pains.
Back-to-back losses to University of Michigan and Furman University left sour notes at the start of the season, and the tension was later exacerbated by a three-loss streak in late February.
Despite the particular struggle with away games, coach Wright’s squad pulled out a Big East Tournament Championship against Seton Hall, in a dramatic 74-72 victory.
Unfortunately, Villanova’s March Madness post-season run ended in an on-brand second-round exit to Purdue, falling 61-87.
Key Nonconference Matchups
- Ohio State University (Columbus, OH; Nov. 13)
- Myrtle Beach Invitational (Conway, SC; Nov. 16-24)
- University of Kansas (Philadelphia, PA; Dec. 21)
Reasons for Optimism
The Youth Will Save Us All
There are no senior starters for the 2019-20 Villanova squad, but that certainly didn’t stop ‘Nova during their 2018 National Championship title run. A championship bid may well be a pipe dream for this current class of Wildcats, but the lessons of young leadership could still be translated and implemented for this season.
Junior Collin Gillespie is poised to lead ‘Nova’s backcourt, stepping into the void left long ago by the likes of Jalen Brunson and Ryan Arcidiacono. Though Gillespie was only the third highest-ranking point producer for the Wildcats last season (falling behind to seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall), Gillespie maintained the highest three-point shooting average for the team (37.9% 3FG). For a team that notoriously loves the long shots, expect Gillespie’s splash presence to further rise.
In the current injury-absence of highly-touted freshman Bryan Antoine, fellow freshman and four-star recruit Justin Moore could additionally fulfill the needed spark to Villanova’s guard line-up.
Further, Saddiq Bey, arguably the breakout freshman star of last season, is bound to cement his status as a dominant figure for ‘Nova. The 6’8” forward’s work ethic earned him a near-continual starting spot for the team, and he consistently delivered with drive and versatility—in fact, Bey even finished just behind Gillespie in three-point shooting. With Paschall now flaunting his talents at Golden State, incoming freshmen Eric Dixon and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl are set to pad up the Wildcats’ physicality alongside Bey.
Coming into the season, Villanova is ranked 10 in the AP Top 25 Poll. Besting other BIG EAST counterparts also making an appearance in the rankings (Seton #12; Xavier #19), the Wildcats are set to deliver another season of coach Wright’s famous #attitude.