Is Villanova the Real Deal?

Wildcat fans have had a lot to cheer about early this season

The Villanova Wildcats have been in the headlines quite a lot after taking first place at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas this past weekend. They started the tournament with a dominant win over USC in a game in which the Wildcats never trailed. The next night they came out and shocked the nation by upsetting Andrew Wiggins and at the time #2 ranked Kansas, holding the Jayhawks to only 59 points and a four point victory for Nova. A late game comeback from a 15-point deficit pushed the Wildcats over another top 25 team when they defeated Iowa in an overtime thriller for the championship. So is Villanova really this good? Or were they just having a good weekend?

The performance they put on in the Bahamas could not be ignored and the polls showed that this past Monday. The Wildcats are back in the top 25 for the first time since the week of February 28, 2011. The AP poll ranked them as the #14 team in the country, and the USA Today coach’s poll put them at #19.

Before the season began, Villanova was unranked and projected to be 4th in the Big East standings, behind Creighton, Georgetown, and Marquette. After the first month, the Wildcats are 7-0 outscoring their opponents 572-463 and are standing alone atop of the Big East. Creighton and Marquette just dropped from the top 25 this past week after both losing to San Diego State, and Georgetown has yet to make the list this season.

There are multiple reasons behind Villanova’s success in the early goings of this season. The Wildcats have been playing great team basketball, averaging 16.4 assists per game, and having six players averaging eight or more points per game. They also have been dominating the glass averaging 43.6 rebounds per game, and having four players averaging more than five rebounds per game.

There are also reasons why the success is likely to continue. The Wildcats are lead by a lot of experienced players. Senior guard James Bell is averaging 17 ppg, 6.3 rpg and recently won the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament MVP, Big East player of the week, and Big 5 player of the week. Juniors JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard are averaging 17.1 and 13 ppg respectively. In addition to experience and leadership, the Wildcats have great depth on their team. Freshmen Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins are fitting in nicely to Villanova’s style of play and contributing across the board. Recent transfer Dylan Ennis returned this past weekend after suffering a broken hand and has made an immediate impact averaging 12ppg. They have nine players steadily making contributions that are averaging at least 13 minutes of playing time per game.

The base to any truly good team is the coach, and Villanova has a great one. Coach Jay Wright knows when and where to put the players he has. He recruits smart players that he knows can thrive in his team’s style of play and tempo, rather than putting all of his focus on highly touted high school stars. Since taking over as Villanova’s head coach in 2001, Wright has led the Wildcats to a post-season berth in every season except for 2012. Throughout this span he has won a national coach of the year award in 2006, as well as Big East coach of the year awards in 2006 and 2009.

Villanova’s balance, leadership, chemistry, and coaching can very possibly lead them to a Big East title and a high seed in the NCAA tournament. Their next few matchups include Penn, the “Holy War” rivalry vs. Saint Joseph’s, LaSalle, and Rider, followed by a major test on December 28th when they play currently undefeated and #4 ranked Syracuse.