The gift Villanova received on Christmas Day was one the Wildcats expected, but also the one they wanted most.
For the third straight week, head coach Jay Wright's 'Cats came in at No. 1 in the AP Poll. This after a quiet week that included just one game, a 95-71 rout of Hofstra at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island Friday night. In what was Wright's return to where he coached from 1994-2001 before coming to the Main Line, Omari Spellman starred with 19 points in 31 minutes.
Things will begin to get more challenging for the Wildcats this week as Big East play begins Wednesday evening with a trip to DePaul. Then comes a visit Saturday to Hinkle Fieldhouse to face Butler, which handed the 'Cats their first loss of the season there last year.
Looking further ahead, a mammoth showdown with Xavier looms Wednesday, Jan. 10 at Wells Fargo Center. The conference rival Musketeers came in at No. 6 in this week's poll.
As for the rest of the top five, Michigan State held steady at No. 2, ditto for Arizona State at No. 3 and Duke at No. 4 while Texas A&M jumped to No. 5.
To view the rest of this week's poll, click here.
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.
Villanova star swingman Mikal Bridges will bypass his senior season and enter the NBA draft, the redshirt junior told ESPN Tuesday morning.
Bridges, who stands at 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, will likely be a lottery pick. He'll intrigue NBA teams as a three-and-D guy who can defend multiple positions.
"My success has been because of a lot of hard work and a lot of patience," Bridges said. "My first year in college, that was the longest time I ever sat out. Villanova and the coaches helped me to build a really strong work ethic. I didn't have as much of an ethic my freshman year, but I was pushed a lot by my coaches and that helped get me to become the player that I am."
He's expected to go around pick No. 10. That should intrigue Sixers fans since the Lakers' pick — which should finally convey this season — is likely to land around there. We outlined how Bridges would be a perfect fit alongside Joel Embiid and company last week (see story).
Along with being crowned as a national champion, Bridges was awarded the Julius Erving Award as the nation's top small forward. He was also named third team All-American and first team All-Big East.
“Mikal has been an exemplary student-athlete during his four years with us at Villanova,” Jay Wright said in a statement. “His work ethic and willingness to accept coaching have helped him grow steadily in his time here. He’s a great teammate and leader. I’m confident he will enjoy a very successful professional career.”
Bridges averaged 17.7 points and 5.3 rebounds and shot 44 percent from three during his junior season. He'll receive his degree in May.