Villanova Basketball Season Preview 2019-2020


Liam Higgins

Purdue’s Carsen Edwards single-handedly throttled last year’s Wildcats in the NCAA tournament, scoring 42 points in Purdue’s 87-61 beat down. This year’s Villanova Men’s Basketball team hopes to get back on track, a task that is attainable, but won’t be easy… Highly sought after six foot nine freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl arrives at Nova for his first year, choosing the Wildcats over the likes of  UNC, Arizona, and Kansas among others. Robinson-Earl’s length and versatility both offensively and defensively had college recruiters drooling, making him the sixteenth ranked prospect in the ESPN Top 100 recruits from last year’s class.


Another notable freshman in Jay Wright’s Top 5 recruiting class is six foot five guard Bryan Antoine. Ranked just under Robinson-Earl at number seventeen on ESPN’s Top 100, Antoine excels due to his outstanding athleticism and shooting that has made Nova Nation eager for basketball season to begin. However, after receiving surgery on his right shoulder in May of last year, fans may have to wait longer than they would’ve liked to see Antoine step out on the hardwood. Although Antoine’s absence will possibly affect the team’s start to the season in a negative way, Villanova’s abundance of guards will help make up for the loss.


  Junior Collin Gillespie looks to follow up a successful 2018-2019 season in which he averaged 11 points, 3 assists and 2 steals per game. Gillespie’s leadership at the critical guard position played a pivotal role in Villanova’s success last year. Gillespie will also be joined in the backcourt by freshman Justin Moore, a  promising guard who can shoot the ball at a high rate and can provide toughness and size at the defensive end. Other freshmen include Abington High School’s own, Eric Dixon and Chris Arcidiacono, whose last name is one that all Villanova fans recognize, as he is the younger brother of Nova legend Ryan Arcidiacono. These two will also provide solid bench minutes in the event of injuries or blowout wins. 


The fact that these freshmen will be expected to contribute in some way immediately doesn’t discredit the talent of the “older” players on the roster either. Following a season in which he received Big East Honorable Mention, sophomore Saddiq Bey looks to pick up where he started last season. Bey was a spark plug to last year’s offense, scoring 8 points per game and racking up 5 rebounds per game. Bey’s frontcourt partner Jermaine Samuels had what some scouts believe was a breakout season of his own last year, as he solidified his place in the starting lineup, making a name for himself as one of college basketball’s elite. Although consistency is a major issue with Samuels, he showed flashes of brilliance in his 2018-2019 campaign including a 29 point outing against Marquette, who were ranked 10th in the country at the time. Look for Samuels and Bey to have impressive seasons this year as they seek to lead a young and exciting Wildcat squad back to the NCAA tournament. 


Last season’s Villanova seniors, Eric Paschall and Phil Booth have both moved on to join other notable Nova basketball players into the NBA, and their presence will be missed dearly by a younger, less experienced team. Paschall and Booth brought outstanding senior leadership and were heavily relied on down the stretch of crucial games. The absence of Paschall and Booth will force players such as Samuels, Gillespie and Bey to step up and provide necessary wisdom to their talented young core. 


Looking elsewhere in the Big East, the Wildcats’ most formidable opponent looks to be the Seton Hall Pirates. Led by an early candidate for Naismith Player of the Year in Myles Powell, the Pirates will attempt to dethrone Villanova as the kings of the Big East. The Big East also features teams, such as Marquette and Xavier that will be sure to make things competitive as always. 


Due to Villanova’s lack of size down low, the Wildcats will have to rely on their outside shooting, much like they did in 2018 when they won their second national championship in school history.  However, without senior leadership and increased pressure on their young core, look for the Wildcats to have a bumpy start to the season as they adjust to the pace of college basketball. However, there have been many “young” teams that have had successful seasons, and Jay Wright is the perfect man for the job. With that being said I expect this year’s Villanova team to finish the season as Big East Champions and as a third ranked team in next March’s NCAA tournament. Although this will be easier said than done, this young Wildcats squad seems to have the talent to make a run at college basketball’s best, as long as they stay “TOGETHER”, a word that Jay Wright preaches as one of the principles of being a Villanovan.