Villanova Wildcats

No. 6 Villanova-Columbia observations: Tons of balance in season-opening win

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No. 6 Villanova-Columbia observations: Tons of balance in season-opening win

BOX SCORE

Although it's ranked No. 6 in the nation, Villanova had a lot of question marks heading into the 2017-18 season.

The Wildcats answered some of them in a 75-60 season-opening defeat of Columbia on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center, but still have plenty of things to figure out.

• Not surprisingly, it was first-team preseason All-American Jalen Brunson who set the tone for the ’Cats. The junior point guard opened the game with a three and closed the first half with a sweet midrange jumper to give Villanova a 32-23 halftime lead. He finished with 14 points in 34 minutes.

• Eric Paschall, a somewhat surprise addition to the starting lineup, had a couple of dunks and a big block to end the first half, and showed great hustle throughout the game. The Fordham transfer led Villanova with 15 points and could be primed for a big year after being more of a role player last season.

• Phil Booth, back after a season lost to injury, showed a little bit of rust with eight points on 3 of 9 shooting.

• Mikal Bridges had the play of the game midway through the second half, showing off long, gangly arms and athletic ability with an incredible baseline dunk.

• The Wildcats took a lot of threes, as they’re prone to do, but only connected on seven of their 32 attempts.

• Donte DiVincenzo, who didn’t start, was held scoreless in the first half, but helped the Wildcats run away with the game after the break with 13 points.

• Freshman Collin Gillespie, a prized prospect out of the Philadelphia Catholic League, showed off his sweet stroke right away, hitting a couple of three-pointers in the first half to help stave off a pesky Lions squad, including one that broke a 9-9 tie.

• The Wildcats’ other top newcomer, redshirt freshman Omari Spellman, had a tougher start, missing an early gimme and making a lazy pass that led to a turnover and transition Columbia bucket. But the big man, whose first collegiate basket came on a put-back with 5:40 left in the first half, looked far more assertive after the break, with Brunson getting in his ear to offer tips. He ended up with a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

• Columbia kept it interesting early with top guard Mike Smith helping the Lions tie the game at 9-9 with under 14 minutes left in the first half as ’Nova struggled shooting the basketball. The Lions, who may end up competing with Penn for a berth in the Ivy League Tournament, certainly look like they could be a formidable team in the Ivy League.

• Friday’s game marked the first time in program history that Villanova opened a season at the Wells Fargo Center, because of renovations on its on-campus Pavilion home. There was a bit of a different vibe than the February games the Wildcats usually play here vs. Big East rivals, but the crowd was quite large for a non-conference game and enjoyed singing along with the Villanova band.

• The Wildcats are now 44-32 all-time at the Wells Fargo Center. They have 11 more regular-season contests in the building, including all nine of its Big East home games.

• Columbia shocked Villanova the last time the two teams meet, upsetting it, 75-57, at the Pavilion in 2012.

• Villanova returns to action Tuesday against Nicholls State — a team 323 spots below it in the Pomeroy rankings.

• The Sixers may be out on the West Coast but that didn’t stop a “Trust the Process” chant from breaking out in the final minutes.

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.