Could No. 14 Villanova be the Big East’s best team? They sure look like it
Just one week ago Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats wrapped up a Battle 4 Atlantis crown that few people expected them to win. After taking care of USC the Wildcats beat Kansas and Iowa, resulting in their first ranking in more than two seasons. For a program that relies on so many young players, how Villanova would deal with the praise is a question more than a few have asked.
After posting a solid 77-54 victory over Penn on Wednesday, Villanova went into Hagan Arena on Saturday night and took control of the action in the second half against Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s. JayVaughn Pinkston scored a game-high 27 points to go along with eight rebounds and James Bell added 25 to help lead the Wildcats to the 98-68 victory. The Wildcats assisted on 19 of their 32 made field goals, hit 12 three-pointers and dominated the boards in the second half, turning a game they led by four at the intermission into a rout.
Villanova may not have a marquee big man to control the paint, but they make up for that with an aggressive style of play that resulted in 17 offensive rebounds against the Hawks. Also of note was Pinkston racking up six plays in which he scored a basket while being fouled and shooting 10-for-15 from the field. If Villanova is to continue to progress as a team the Brooklyn native will need to be a consistent force in the front court, and Saturday’s effort showed that Pinkston has what it takes to be that kind of player.
Add in perimeter players such as Ryan Arcidiacono (14 points), Darrun Hilliard (11), Dylan Ennis and Josh Hart (six apiece), and Villanova clearly has the depth needed to give teams fits in the backcourt. And if Pinkston and Bell can receive some help from a Kris Jenkins on Daniel Ochefu, Villanova could very well be the best team in the Big East when it’s all said and done.
Should the Wildcats be considered the best team in the Big East right now?
At 9-0 they’re the league’s lone undefeated team, and those wins over Kansas and Iowa are better than what any other team in the conference has produced to date. So while there’s certainly room for improvement, Villanova has made a statement that it will be a contender once conference play begins on New Year’s Eve.
With a game at No. 4 Syracuse three weeks away, Villanova will need to take care of business against La Salle (December 15) and Rider (December 21) before taking on that challenge. And with their second half performance against Saint Joseph’s, Villanova showed that they have the skill and maturity needed to avoid a letdown in either of those contests.