Record: 29-4 (16-2 in Big East)
Picked to finish 4th preseason in the Big East, the Villanova Wildcats have exceeded expectations as they won the Big East regular season with a 16-2 record and currently sit at 29-4 heading into their Third Round NCAA matchup with the UConn Huskies. The Wildcats defeated Milwaukee on Thursday night 73-53 despite only shooting 4-23 from three. Villanova had five different players score in double figures and held Milwaukee to just 28.6% from the field.
In the non-conference portion of their schedule, the Wildcats had opportunities to show their talents with wins against then #2 Kansas (63-59) and then #23 Iowa (88-83) in the Battle 4 Atlantis in late November. Villanova stunned the Jayhawks on a late three-pointer by Sophomore Ryan Arcidiacono, his first made field goal of the night. Against Iowa, Senior James Bell led the way with 20 points and 9 rebounds in an overtime victory. Villanova’s lone loss out of conference came at the hands at then #2 Syracuse as the Orange dominated in the second half winning 78-62.
In conference play, the Wildcats rolled through the Big East beating every team twice except for Creighton, a team that dominated Villanova both times they played. The first time these two teams played, Villanova was ranked 4th in the nation and at home before being hit with a barrage of three-pointers by Creighton leading to a 96-68 blowout loss. The next time these two teams met at Creighton, the Wildcats let the Bluejays shoot 64.2% from the field which resulted in a 101-80 loss for the Wildcats. Villanova then went on to lose in the first round of the Big East Tournament against Seton Hall. (While I try to be impartial when writing this scouting report, I honestly don’t think any of Villanova’s Big East wins are of note, so I will not mention them.)
Statistically, the Wildcats rank in the top 100 in five major categories: points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, field goal percentage and points allowed. They are 30th in the nation in PPG with 78.5, 64th in RPG with 37.1 and 20th in APG with 15.6. Villanova also shoots a relatively high percentage from the field at 45.9%, 86th in the nation while only allowing 66.2 PPG, good for 73rd in the nation.
Villanova is very different than St. Joseph’s when it comes to their rotation as they play up to nine players a game. We will now take a look at the Wildcats’ starting five and their 6th man.
#32 James Bell, Senior, G, (6-6, 220 pounds): A first team All-Big East selection, he leads the team with 14.5 PPG while also pulling down 6.1 RPG. Bell is one of Villanova’s three three-point threats among starters as he is 81-219 from deep for 37.0%. He also is the team’s best free throw shooter at 81.1%. Bell had 12 points and 7 rebounds in the Second Round win over Milwaukee.
#4 Darrun Hilliard II, Junior, G, (6-6, 215 pounds): Second on the team with 14.3 PPG while also handing out 2.7 APG and 3.6 RPG. He is the probably the best three-point threat for the Wildcats as he shoots 41.1% from three. Hilliard was the leading scorer for Villanova with 16 points against Milwaukee.
#22 JayVaughn Pinkston, Junior, F, (6-7, 240 pounds): A second team All-Big East selection, he is third on the team in scoring at 14.2 PPG while leading the team in rebounding at 6.2 per game. Pinkston is one of the better shooters from the floor for the Wildcats at 52.5% from the field. He had 13 points with 8 rebounds while also recording 3 blocks in the win over Milwaukee.
#15 Ryan Arcidiacono, Sophomore, G, (6-3, 195 pounds): Leads the team in assists with 3.4 a game while also scoring 9.7 PPG. He is the third three-point threat among Villanova starters at 34.1% from deep. While Arcidiacono is a threat from distance, he shoots a very poor 39.5% from the field. Arcidiacono only scored 2 points in the win over Milwaukee while also recording 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
#23 Daniel Ochefu, Sophomore, F, (6-11, 245 pounds): The only real big man for Villanova, he averages 6.1 RPG and 1.5 BPG while also scoring 5.7 PPG. He shoots at a very high percentage at 60.0%. Ochefu scored 4 points while pulling down 9 rebounds in their Second Round win.
#3 Josh Hart, Freshman, G, (6-5, 202 pounds): An All-Rookie Big East selection, he is the 6th man for Villanova. He averages 8.0 PPG while also pulling down 4.5 RPG. Hart had 11 points and 7 rebounds in the win over Milwaukee. Hart, Dylan Ennis and Kris Jenkins are all three-point threats off the bench for the Wildcats.
Villanova is coached by Jay Wright who is in his 13th season at the school where he is 284-148. He slowly built the Wildcats back into a top tier team in the Big East. Wright has led Villanova to eight NCAA Tournaments while at Villanova including the Elite Eight in 2005-2006 and Final Four in 2008-2009. Before Villanova, Wright was the coach at Hofstra where he led the Pride to back-to-back NCAA appearances in 2000 and 2001.