Villanova came into the start of the season ranked No.8, and after some poor performances, the Wildcats looked like a shell of their former selves. The program that had made winning seem so easy and appeared to crack the code of college basketball with Jay Wright’s secret formula went for back to back losses since 2013 – after a blowout loss to Michigan and an overtime loss to Furman. A team littered with youth and inexperience seemed to find their stride with the win over ranked Florida State and taking home the title at the AdvoCare Invitational. With the championship under the teams’ belt, the matchup against La Salle seemed like an opportunity for the Cats’ to pull out a good tough win and extend their City Series steak to 23 games. Although the cats pulled out the win, the struggles of the team were glaringly clear. Villanova allowed 12 3s and at one point were down 12 to La Salle. The defensive play the Wildcats showed in the Advocare Invitational was almost nonexistent in the first half. La Salle shot 58% against the Cats, and Villanova looked virtually dominated by the Explorers.
All of us were left wondering: How did the Wildcats get here? Winning two national championships in three years has catapulted Villanova into a different realm. Villanova in the past has relied on polished veteran players to lead its teams. The traditional Villanova way of “rebuilding not reloading” has separated the basketball program from other mainstream programs in the “one-and-done” arms race. Villanova has chosen not to become a revolving door for talent; instead, the Philly mantra of “Trusting the Process” has been successful for Villanova’s program. The program is built methodically around experience which we can see if we look to the frequency of redshirting at Villanova. Players like Donte DiVincenzo and Mikal Bridges all redshirted to give them time to develop and mature. Villanova has been effective in the past because of its commitment to developing and maturing players. Jay Wright says, “It’s kind of like that great pitcher who’s in the minors, and you leave him there the extra year; You want him to mature.” The balanced plan of young guys learning from older developed players has been thrown off by players leaving for the NBA.
Now the team is drowning in youth and looking for its new identity, which raises the question: What do the Wildcats do now? The answer lies in the “semi-older” guys. When asked how important Phil Booth and Eric Paschall are to the team, Wright said “Too important, we need to get them a little bit of help.” Here is where the team will look to its sophomore players to help lead the way. We saw Jermaine Samuels have a monster performance that helped Villanova to a win against Temple. In the past, point guard position has ran the show for Villanova Basketball. Taken over this season by Collin Gillespie, Gillespie at the point has started to establish himself as a leader on the court.
Similarly, Dhamir Crosby-Roundtree’s process has been fast-tracked – for the 2017-18 Season; he averaged 11 minutes off the bench, this season he is averaging 23.8 minutes, as a starter. He is averaging 6.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 0.9 APG. His breakout performance, as the MVP of the AdvoCare Invitational, was key to the team taking home the title. During the tournament, he averaged over 11 points and over rebounds. He had an efficient tournament, and the team will look to him to be a leader on defense. His rebounding and shot blocking ability, not to mention how effective he has been on the glass will be an asset to this team. With only playing their first eight games, Dhamir has 67 rebounds which is more than half for the 2017-2018 where he totaled 95 rebounds for the year.
The supporting cast is the most essential part of the Nova’s game this season. Booth and Paschall are combining for an average of 31 points per game, but they need some help. At Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas jumped out to an 8-1 lead and seven straight points all by Eric Paschall to ties the game at eight all. The Wildcats need to get its other guys involved to be the most effective. The bench depth made the difference in wins against Temple and St. Joes. Teams are beginning to lock into Paschall and Booth by crowding the lane to keep them out and tough defense around the perimeter. Villanova is a three-point shooting team. The team is shooting a higher percentage of threes this season, but are not making as many threes. In the losses against Penn, Furman, and Michigan, they were 26/85 from three. The Villanova way has always been “live by the three; die by the three” however without the dominant three-point shooting of the past, the defense is not stretched the same. Without some of the older guys this season, the expectation is that Dhamir Crosby-Roundtree will step up and become a pacesetter and leader out on the floor. The team will look to use his defensive prowess to feed him inside the post, have him attack the basket, control the glass and get to the line. As good as he has been, the team will need more from him if they are going to make a deep run this year. Foul trouble has kept him to limited minutes in the games against La Salle and Florida State.
In the first two wins against Morgan State and Quinnipiac, he did not get to the line at all, where he is 18/26 (.692). For the season, he is 29/40 (.725%) in field-goal percentage. The team will want him to be more aggressive inside and shoot more from the line. In the loss against Penn, Roundtree only totaled two rebounds where the team lost the rebounding game 22-35. Roundtree was more dominant in the matchup against Kansas, leading the team with eleven total rebounds, but the team was still out-rebounded 26 to 35. Roundtree’s rebounding performance did help Nova get back into the game against Kansas as the best three-point shooting came after offensive rebounds. Given the team is playing a lot slower this season, using all of the shot clock and running deliberate offense sets, possessions in games are crucial to the teams’ rebounding ability will be vital in their success. With poor rebounding, teams can limit Villanova’s possessions and get second chance opportunities. A lot of games for Nova have been decided on the glass and team will look for big numbers from Roundtree going forward.
The team will look to use his defensive prowess to feed him inside the post, have him attack the basket, control the glass, and get to the line. DCR can add some flavor into the post and inside game where he has been effective shooting 72.5% from the field. He is impacting the game defensively, but the Wildcats need more scoring from him. After the MVP performance of the AdvoCare Invitational, DCR offensive production is not where the team needs it to be. With the focus on Booth and Paschall, the defense leaving him wide open. During the matchup against the Jayhawks, the Wildcats were making opponents pay for attention to Booth and Paschall by either driving and kicking the ball out to shooters or having DCR set a screen then rolling to the basket. In describing his sophomore guys, Jay Wright said they were the “X-factor this year,” and the emergence and the development of Dhamir this season has been a welcome surprise. Roundtree leads the Big East in blocks and is leading the team in rebounds this season. He can guard the perimeter, rebounds the basketball, and helps solidify the interior defense. His game has been consistent, and his production thus far is what the team will need in building its identity.