Villanova Wildcats

Villanova leaves early for NCAA Tournament repeat bid to avoid snowstorm

Villanova leaves early for NCAA Tournament repeat bid to avoid snowstorm

Printable bracket with game times

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VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Jay Wright's squad is already feeling the madness.
 
Just over 24 hours after returning from Madison Square Garden with the Big East title in hand, Villanova is back on the road, heading to Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament.
 
It's a quick turnaround for a team coming off of three wins in three days. But now, with an impending snowstorm making its way to the area, Villanova scrambled to depart for Buffalo earlier than anticipated for Thursday's game.
 
"It changes a lot because we just got home," Wright said Monday before departing for Buffalo. "We just got home yesterday, and I'm not really looking forward to leaving right away, but it hits you with reality. You're in it. We're going to be in Buffalo tonight and that's where we're playing and it's on.
 
"Even after we won (the Big East championship) Saturday night, our staff was already saying, 'Hey, we're probably going to Buffalo, we're expecting snow,' so we started planning then. Our original plan was to leave at 7 o'clock at night, let the guys go to class all day, and then the NCAA, last night, said because of the weather in Buffalo, they had to get us up there earlier."
 
With barely a day between trips, Wright didn't have time to prep his squad for the upcoming biggest game of the year. No meetings, no talks, just one abbreviated practice.
 
"Honestly, I didn't even give them any message here because we're trying to get out of here real fast," Wright said. "I wanted to make sure that we got a little practice in. We had planned on practicing later, but as you guys know, we had Coaches vs. Cancer this morning, so I had to go back. So we didn't have any meetings today or any talks. We just got on the floor and practiced basketball. And we'll have time up there in Buffalo to talk."
 
As if that were not enough, the Wildcats, the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, don't even know which team they'll be facing in the first round. They await the winner of Tuesday's First Four game between Mount St. Mary's (19-15) and New Orleans (20-11). Villanova will meet the winner Thursday at 7:10 p.m.
 
So, with no down time to scout, prepare or let alone practice, how do you prepare for two teams?
 
"You're a 1-seed playing a 16-seed, so there's nothing to complain about," Wright said. "It is a different challenge. You've got two assistants working on the first game and you still have to prepare possibly for a second game. It's just different."
 
A 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed, and with Villanova's experience and skill, the Wildcats should have no problem advancing to the second round. 

But, of course, don't tell them that.
 
"This starts a new season," Wright said. "Whatever our seed is, whatever we did in the regular season doesn't matter. We're one of 68 teams. That's it. And we get beat in the first round, we're done. Let's enjoy the finality of this, the pressure, let's enjoy this, let's embrace it."
 
The chances of Villanova losing in the first round to either team are -- to put it lightly -- a long shot, but Wright doesn't have fond memories of Buffalo.
 
Last time 'Nova played in Buffalo in the Big Dance, the second-seeded Wildcats were stunned by eventual national champion and seventh-seeded UConn in 2014.
 
"Great disappointment," Wright said. "But not just in losing, but we didn't really play Villanova basketball, either."
 
As the head coach of Hofstra in 2000, Wright's team was blasted by Oklahoma State in the first round in Buffalo.
 
"My first NCAA Tournament game ever, when we were at Hofstra, was at Buffalo, same place," Wright said. "And it was St. Paddy's Day and there was a blizzard. I was thinking, 'My whole life, I waited to coach and make the NCAA Tournament and it was miserable.' And we played Oklahoma State ... and got hammered. ... It was a horrible first experience as a coach, and it was in Buffalo."
 
While in Buffalo yet again, this year is different for Wright. His 'Cats ran the table in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, edging out UNC on Kris Jenkins' miraculous game-winner to become national champions.
 
It's a play that stalks Wright and the reigning champs everywhere they go. On TV, on video boards. It's inescapable, endlessly intensifying the pressure with every view for Villanova to match expectations and make a deep run this year.
 
"It's there," Wright said. "It's always a reminder that everybody expects you to do it again. But, that's part of the challenge. When people say it's hard to repeat, that's part of why it's hard to repeat. Because you have to deal with those expectations all the time and constant reminders of last year."
 
Ready or not, Villanova's path to a repeat begins Thursday. The team has two full days of meetings and practice to prepare. In the formidable East Region, with No. 2 Duke and others standing in their way, the Wildcats won't be caught looking ahead (see story).
 
"The teams that scare me the most right now are New Orleans and Mount St. Mary's, definitely," Wright said. "Because none of [the other teams in the bracket] matter. If you don't get past those guys, there's no reason. Why waste being scared if you can't get past the first game? I'm scared enough."

Donte DiVincenzo latest Villanova player to declare for NBA draft

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USA Today Images

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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AP Images

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.