Nov 20, 2016; Charleston, SC, USA; Villanova Wildcats forward Darryl Reynolds (45), forward Kris Jenkins (2), and guard Josh Hart (3) pose with the trophy after defeating the UCF Knights 67-57 in the championship game of the Charleston Classic at TD Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
What are the five reasons why Villanova basketball can win the NCAA Tournament title?
We are only a few weeks into the 2016-17 season and it is clear that Villanova is picking up right where they left off last year.
To put it simply, the Wildcats are playing like one of the best teams in the country. They have rolled through virtually all competition they have faced and possess one of the more impressive wins of the year by going into Mackey Arena and beating Purdue on the road. To date, there isn’t a more impressive true road win.
Villanova returns three starters after the departure of Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. However, this team has looked the same, if not better, compared to last year’s national championship squad. Villanova is not a team that features dominant one-and-done freshman. Instead, a slew of players see the floor, as roughly eight different players average at least 20 minutes a game.
Seniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins lead Villanova. Hart is a preseason All-American and Player of the Year candidate in the Big East. Kris Jenkins is most known for his game-winning shot in last year’s championship win over North Carolina. The Wildcats have a good mix of upperclassmen and first and second year players to balance their team.
There is a long time between now and March but right now, Villanova looks like the best team in the country. Can the Wildcats repeat as national champions? Here are five reasons why the answer to this question very well may be yes.
Apr 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Villanova Wildcats forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts with guard Ryan Arcidiacono (15) and guard Josh Hart (3) after their win over North Carolina Tar Heels in the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four at NRG Stadium. Villanova won 77-74. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Villanova is returning three starters from last year’s national championship team. This group is led by two seniors in particular, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins.
Hart was named to every preseason award watch list out there, including the Julius Erving Award (best small forward), Preseason All-American team and the Wooden Award list. We are seven games into the season and he has shown why, averaging 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. Hart is the true leader of this team and really personifies tough Villanova basketball.
Kris Jenkins is the other senior leader on this team. Jenkins seems to be most known for his game-winning shot against UNC in the championship game. He may be known for this the rest of his life and rightfully so.
However, Jenkins is more than just a one shot wonder. The senior forward is averaging 13.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. His ability to stretch the floor and knock down threes at such a high rate (45.5 percent) really makes him an important piece to Villanova.
Nov 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Villanova Wildcats guard Jalen Brunson (1) dribbles against Pennsylvania Quakers guard Darnell Foreman (4) during the first half at Palestra. Villanova Wildcats won 82-57. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
4. The Youngsters
Nova has three sophomores and one freshman who average close to 20 minutes per game. Sophomores Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Eric Paschall lead the way, along with redshirt freshman Donte DiVincenzo.
This foursome averages a combined 38.6 points, 14.3 rebounds, 7.7 assists, all while shooting almost 50 percent from the floor. Villanova seems to have found the proper mix between veterans and young players so far this year. This is a major reason why they are 7-0.
Apr 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Kennedy Meeks (3) works to control the ball ahead of Villanova Wildcats defense during the second half in the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Villanova Wildcats head coach Jay Wright during the second half against the Pennsylvania Quakers at Palestra. Villanova Wildcats won 82-57. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
2. Offensive efficiency
Villanova’s offense is a thing of beauty. Everything about it is precise and efficient, which is why they rank in the top 10 in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
As a team they are shooting 50 percent from the floor and are averaging around 10 turnovers per game, ranking them 12th nationally. If Nova continues to shoot well and take care of the ball, they could find themselves playing deep into March.
Nov 18, 2016; Charleston, SC, USA; Villanova Wildcats head coach Jay Wright is calmed by guard Mikal Bridges (25) during the second half of game six of the Charleston Classic against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at TD Arena. Wildcats won 96-77. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Jay Wright is one of the best coaches in America and I’ll tell you why.
Sure, he has a 361-157 record at Villanova and yes, he also led them to a national title last year, which was the second in the school’s history. But last year, Villanova wasn’t supposed to beat North Carolina. None of the college basketball talking heads pitted them to win it all. And why should they have? Villanova was coming in undersized and way less talented, yet Wright took his smaller squad and led them over a historically dominant basketball program.
UNC had six McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster and that didn’t even include their best player, Brice Johnson. Villanova had one, Jalen Brunson, and he was a freshman.
My point is, Wright doesn’t get these incredible high school players historically, yet he still has his team positioned to win and make deep NCAA Tournament runs every year. As long as Jay Wright is coaching at Villanova, they have a chance to win it all.