Sean Kane

As key players head to NBA, where does Villanova go from here?

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As key players head to NBA, where does Villanova go from here?

The decisions made by Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman to remain in the NBA draft should ultimately be a good thing for the Villanova basketball program. DiVincenzo and Spellman join college teammates Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson in the 2018 draft class and there's a chance all four of them are selected in the first round. 

Having four players drafted in the first round will do wonders for Villanova on the recruiting trail. The caliber of high school players that Jay Wright recruits want to play in the NBA. Wright could point to the four first-rounders the program produced this year in addition to former players like Kyle Lowry, Dante Cunningham, Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono currently playing in the NBA.

While Wright's program will reap the benefits of producing NBA talent in the long run, there is no disputing the fact that DiVincenzo and Spellman deciding to leave is a significant blow to the program in the immediate future. DiVincenzo and Spellman would have been Villanova's two best players next season. Two guys capable of leading the Wildcats to a third national championship in four years. 

But their departures bring about a new reality for Wright — his four best players from last year's team are gone and he has only two proven players returning to lead his team into the 2018-19 season. 

The proven returners
Seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall combined to start 69 games last season and each played a critical role in winning the program's third national title. Next year will be Booth's fifth in the Villanova program and Paschall's fourth. These are proven performers and, more importantly, reliable leaders for what will largely be an inexperienced team. Booth will be one of the best guards in the Big East next season. Paschall is one of the most explosive athletes in the conference and his improved perimeter shooting last season was a key factor in Villanova winning the national championship.

Other key returners
This group will be the most important variable in Villanova's success next season. Collin Gillespie heads into his sophomore season poised for a big year. He made significant contributions off the bench as a freshman, overcoming an early season wrist injury that sidelined him for the better part of six weeks. A healthy and confident Gillespie will be a huge part of the Villanova backcourt. 

Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree rounded out Villanova's seven-man rotation last season. Like Gillespie, he enters his sophomore season with a wealth of big-game experience. Cosby-Roundtree proved his worth last season as a high-motor big man specializing in defensive energy, rebounding and running the floor. He'll now be asked to contribute on a more consistent level offensively.

Jermaine Samuels will play a critical role. Another rising sophomore, Samuels was making strides as a freshman before a broken hand sidelined him for an extended stretch during the beginning of conference play. He was never able to re-establish himself in the rotation once he returned. Samuels has all the physical tools to be a high-level Big East wing player in the mold of Hart and DiVincenzo. Keep an eye on Samuels.

Then there's big man Dylan Painter, who redshirted last season. Painter showed promise towards the end of his freshman season in 2017. The hope is that a year spent working on his strength and athleticism will pay dividends. The redshirt formula has been a big part of Villanova's success. Painter could become the latest example of that. 

The new arrivals
Wright welcomes in his highest-rated recruiting class in a decade. The headliner is five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, who originally committed to Arizona but then de-committed in the midst of the FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting. Wright is confident that Quinerly will be cleared of any wrongdoing and will be eligible next season. Quinerly should make an instant impact, the next in a long line of terrific Villanova lead guards.

Cole Swider should also see significant playing time as a freshman. Swider is listed as a forward but is more than capable of doing damage from the perimeter thanks to his elite-level shooting ability. Swider is a natural scorer and should be a perfect fit for Villanova's three-point heavy offense. Brandon Slater is the third member of Villanova's freshman class, an athletic wing who will have ample opportunity to play his way into the rotation.

Villanova will also bring in at least one graduate transfer for next season. Joe Cremo has already committed to Villanova after starring at Albany the last two seasons. He averaged just under 18 points last year and shot nearly 46 percent from three-point range. The question is whether Cremo's production will carry over to the Big East level. Wright is hopeful that it will. Look for Cremo to be a key addition to the Villanova backcourt. 

5 questions facing Sixers as NBA draft approaches

5 questions facing Sixers as NBA draft approaches

The 2018 NBA draft takes place exactly four weeks from tonight — Thursday, June 21, in Brooklyn. For the first time since 2013, the 76ers do not have a top-three pick. 

But thanks to Sam Hinkie's masterful Michael Carter-Williams trade three years ago, they do have the 10th overall selection that originally belonged to the Lakers. It's a pick that carries all sorts of intrigue as draft night approaches. 

Here are five key questions surrounding the Sixers’ draft plans.

1. Will they keep the 10th pick?
I believe they will. There's been plenty of speculation that the 76ers could include the pick in a trade package to acquire a star player this offseason. Kawhi Leonard has been the most popular name. But all indications are that the Spurs will try to do everything they can to sign Leonard to a long-term max contract this summer despite the hard feelings stemming from Leonard's season-ending quad injury. 

I don't envision the Spurs changing their stance on this situation in the next four weeks. The 76ers could turn their attention elsewhere (Portland's C.J. McCollum comes to mind), but in the end, I think they hold onto the 10th pick and use it on a player they think would be a good complement to young stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. 

2. Which players are the most likely options at 10?
If Villanova's Mikal Bridges is still on the board, I'd take him in a heartbeat. He's a perfect fit for how the 76ers like to play. Bridges is a consistent threat from three-point range and would stretch the floor and create space for Simmons and Embiid to operate. Bridges is also extremely versatile defensively — able to guard point guards, shooting guards and small forwards. He'd also bring a winning mentality to the organization from his time at Villanova. 

The Sixers are plenty familiar with Bridges. He played 12 games in their home arena last season and president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo personally made the trip to Madison Square Garden to watch Bridges in the Big East Tournament in March.

If Bridges isn't available (he's been linked to the Cavaliers at No. 8 and the Knicks at 9), expect the 76ers to take a long look at Michigan State's Miles Bridges. Kentucky's Kevin Knox is another potential option. 

3. Could Trae Young fall?
The chances are better than most people think. Young was the talk of college basketball for much of last season thanks to his elite shooting and playmaking abilities at Oklahoma. The Steph Curry comparisons have been flying around for a while now. Young isn't Curry but he is a dynamic offensive player who would provide instant energy on the offensive end.

Young's small frame and defensive shortcomings have caused his stock to drop over the last few weeks. There is a real possibility that he is still on the board when the 76ers are making the 10th pick. The question then becomes — would the Sixers take him? 

Assuming Markelle Fultz eventually becomes the player the 76ers hoped he would be, there wouldn't be much of a need for Young. But that Fultz assumption is a significant one at this point. Could the Sixers draft Young and hedge their bet that either he or Fultz develops into the dynamic backcourt piece that complements Simmons for the next decade?

Young's lack of size and defensive prowess would be minimized playing with Embiid and Simmons.

4. What are the 76ers’ options at 26?
A week ago, I would have suggested Villanova's Donte DiVincenzo. But the way his stock has been sky-rocketing following the combine, chances are he'll be off the board by the time the 26th pick is made. Depending on what the 76ers do with the 10th pick, more realistic options include Duke's Grayson Allen, Oregon's Troy Brown and Creighton's Khyri Thomas.

Allen is one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft, but he's worth serious consideration. He is an elite shooter and tested very well athletically at the combine.

5. What will they do with their four second-rounders?
They'll likely trade a few of them and/or use them to select players they plan on stashing overseas for a year or two. But there's always a handful of sleepers in the second round who develop into contributors at the NBA level. 

A few names to keep an eye on this year — West Virginia's Jevon Carter, Villanova's Omari Spellman, Kentucky's Hamidou Diallo and Kansas' Malik Newman.           

Will newfound stardom lure Donte DiVincenzo into NBA draft?

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Will newfound stardom lure Donte DiVincenzo into NBA draft?

Donte DiVincenzo's historic effort in Villanova's championship game win Monday night over Michigan thrust him into the national spotlight. The red-shirt sophomore scored a career-high 31 points on 10 of 15 shooting, putting him squarely on the radar of NBA executives.

Prior to Monday, DiVincenzo was viewed as a solid prospect for the 2019 NBA draft. Now, there's speculation he could leave Villanova for the NBA this year.

There are two schools of thought on what DiVincenzo could and should do. On one hand, his stock may never be higher. Why not capitalize on his newfound stardom and declare now? After all, he demonstrated the full arsenal Monday — athleticism, explosiveness, outside shooting, the ability to play point guard and terrific defensive play.

Then there's the other option, the one that I think will ultimately win out — come back to school for his junior season and be "the man" for the premier college program in the country. DiVincenzo averaged 13.4 points this season, but he could showcase himself even more as Villanova's primary scoring option next year and potentially play his way into being a lottery pick in 2019. Right now, he's a fringe first-round prospect. There's no guarantee he'll be selected in the first 30 picks and receive a guaranteed contract.

In addition to being a tremendous talent, DiVincenzo has also demonstrated patience during his time at Villanova. He endured a medical red-shirt as a freshman after breaking his foot early in the season, watching from the sidelines as his teammates won a national championship in 2016. Last two years, DiVincenzo was good enough to start for 98 percent of the teams in college basketball. But he accepted his role as the sixth man for Villanova, providing a spark off the bench that no other team in the country had at its disposal. He's been patient throughout his career, paying his dues along the way. That patience would serve him well if he, in fact, chooses to put off the NBA for one more year.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if DiVincenzo goes through the pre-draft process without hiring an agent, giving himself the option to return to school. But in the end, expect him to come back to Villanova to help the Wildcats take aim at a third national championship in four years.