Villanova Wildcats

Breaking down Villanova's path, chances to make Final Four

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Breaking down Villanova's path, chances to make Final Four

Villanova's quest for its second national championship in the last three years begins Thursday. 'Nova, the No. 1 seed in the East Region for the third time in four years, takes on Radford in the first round.

Villanova's chances
Villanova is the favorite to win its region. In fact, Vegas bookmakers have installed the Wildcats as the overall favorite to win the national championship. There are several reasons for that vote of confidence. First and foremost, Villanova is really good. The Wildcats have two of the best players in the country in Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. Factor in Donte DiVincenzo, Phil Booth, Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall, and Villanova has as much talent as anyone. This is the best offensive team Jay Wright has had at Villanova. This season the Wildcats averaged over 87 points and shot 50.4 percent from the field. They improved significantly defensively toward the end of the season, holding their last five opponents to an average of 69 points.

The Wildcats are also healthy for the first time since early December. Booth and Paschall both missed significant time in February, resulting in a 3-3 stretch for Villanova. But 'Nova won its last five games as Wright settled on an eight-man rotation featuring a heavy reliance on his starters and DiVincenzo. Barring foul trouble, freshmen Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree should see limited minutes in the tournament.

Player to watch
This distinction goes to Alabama freshman Collin Sexton, who Villanova could face in the second round Saturday. Sexton will be a lottery pick in the 2018 NBA draft. He's an explosive lead guard tailor-made for the NBA. Sexton averages 19 points and took it up a notch last weekend, averaging 26.3 points the SEC Tournament. The second round has been a stumbling block for Villanova in recent years. Sexton has the ability to put a serious scare into the Wildcats if Alabama can get past Virginia Tech.

Tournament coaches
NCAA Tournament-tested coaches go a long way toward success. There are several such coaches in 'Nova's region. Wright has won 21 NCAA Tournament games, leading the Wildcats to five Sweet 16 appearances, two Final Fours and a national championship in 2016. This will be West Virginia coach Bob Huggins' 24th NCAA Tournament. Like Wright, Huggins has coached in two Final Fours — one each with WVU and Cincinnati. Then there's Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, who will be coaching in his 14th NCAA Tournament. Marshall led Wichita State to the Final Four in 2013 and the Sweet 16 in 2015.  

Delayed matchup?
If seeding holds, Villanova would play No. 2 seed Purdue in the regional final. A lot of people expected this matchup to take place back in November at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, but Purdue was upset by Tennessee in the first round. Villanova and Purdue did meet in November 2016, with the Wildcats winning 79-76 on the Boilermakers' home court. If these two teams meet in the Elite Eight, Villanova will have to contend with Purdue's 1-2 punch of sharp-shooting guard Carsen Edwards and 7-2 big man Isaac Haas. 

Prediction
Villanova takes advantage of a favorable draw and advances to its second Final Four in the last three years. The Wildcats will handle Radford and contain Sexton and Alabama in the second round. They'll survive a tough test from WVU in the Sweet 16 before beating Purdue in the Elite Eight. From there it's on to the Final Four, where a whole new set of challenges will await.   

Donte DiVincenzo latest Villanova player to declare for NBA draft

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Donte DiVincenzo latest Villanova player to declare for NBA draft

Another Villanova star is moving on ... maybe.

Donte DiVincenzo has declared for the NBA draft but will not hire an agent, meaning he can test the draft waters but will maintain his college eligibility should he chose to return to school. 

The redshirt sophomore was voted the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player after scoring a career-high 31 points in Villanova' national title win over Michigan. 

“Donte has consistently improved in his time at Villanova through dedication and a commitment to our core values,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “His play this season has created a unique opportunity for him to receive feedback from NBA teams in the draft process. We support Donte fully and our staff will work together with him and his family to help him assess the next step in his basketball career.”

DiVincenzo averaged 13.4 points and 3.5 assists while shooting 48.1 percent from the field. His numbers jumped to 15 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists 54.7 percent shooting during the NCAA Tournament.

He must decide by May 30 if he will enter the draft or return to school.

DiVincenzo is the latest Wildcat to declare for the draft, as the mass exodus of stars continues for Villanova.

Mikael Bridges and Jalen Brunson have declared and hired agents, marking the end of their collegiate careers, while redshirt freshman Omari Spellman will also test the waters.

On the bright side, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall announced they will both return for next season.

Omari Spellman enters name in draft, but doesn't hire agent

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Omari Spellman enters name in draft, but doesn't hire agent

Villanova might be losing yet another star player. 

This time, redshirt freshman Omari Spellman is entering his name for the 2018 NBA draft process. But unlike Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, Spellman won’t hire an agent. That’s an important distinction. 

Basically, this will allow Spellman to test the waters of the draft with the option of pulling his name and returning to Villanova for another season. He would need to withdraw from the draft by May 30 to maintain his eligibility. 

“Omari’s intelligence and willingness to be coached allowed him to make great strides last season,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said in a statement. “His development as a complete Villanova Basketball player was instrumental to our team’s success. We look forward to working together with Omari and his family in the coming weeks as they go through the process of evaluating the next step in his basketball career.”

During the 2017-18 season, Spellman was the Big East and Big 5 Rookie of the Year. He started all but one game during the season, averaging 10.9 points and 8.0 rebounds. He also led the Wildcats with 59 blocked shots. In addition to his big-man skills — Spellman is 6-9, 245 — he also hit over 43 percent of his shots from three. 

While we’ve heard from Spellman, Brunson and Bridges, still no word from Donte DiVincenzo or Eric Paschall about their future. The deadline for early entry to the draft is at 11:59 p.m. on April 22.