Villanova Wildcats

Instant Replay: Villanova squeaks by Seton Hall to reach Big East tournament finals

Instant Replay: Villanova squeaks by Seton Hall to reach Big East tournament finals

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Josh Hart's follow of a Kris Jenkins miss with 9.6 seconds left gave Villanova a dramatic 55-53 win over Seton Hall Friday in the Big East Conference Tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
 
Villanova, which trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, rallied back, and after a furious last eight minutes that included four ties and six lead changes, Khadeem Carrington gave Seton Hall a one-point lead with a follow shot and free throw with 1:43 left.
 
Villanova had the ball with 18 seconds left still down one and Jenkins, the buzzer-beating hero of last year's national championship game, lined up for a three. This one missed, but Hart came soaring over Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado for the game-winning putback. He added a foul shot for the two-point lead.
 
Delgado missed a shot over Jenkins from the paint as time expired.
 
The game closely paralleled last year's Big East title game, when Seton Hall built an early 14-point lead, Villanova rallied back to take the lead, only to lose by two.
 
This time, the Wildcats made enough plays at the end to win despite a very ugly start.
 
Seton Hall took advantage of some terrible Villanova shooting to build an 11-point lead at 25-14 with 4½ minutes left in the first half.
 
Villanova opened the game missing 17 of its first 22 shots, and its five starters had just nine points after 15½ minutes.
 
But Villanova gradually began chipping away. A Hart three just before halftime cut the lead to seven, and a Mikal Bridges three on Villanova's first possession of the second half trimmed it to four.
 
The Wildcats took their first lead of the game at 41-40 with 9:18 left on a Hart steal and slam.
 
Neither team led by more than four the rest of the way.
 
Hart led Villanova with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Jalen Brunson added 13 points, including two huge jumpers in the final three minutes.
 
What it means
Villanova improved to 30-3 and Seton Hall fell to 21-11. This is the third straight year Villanova has won 30 or more games and the fourth time in school history.
 
This will be Villanova's third straight appearance in the championship game and eighth overall.
 
The Wildcats join Syracuse (1988-90), UConn (1998-00), Pitt (2001-04) and Louisville (2011-13) as the fifth school to make three straight appearance in the title game since the tournament's inception in 1980.
 
Villanova also reached the title game in 1981 (lost to Syracuse), 1982 (lost to Georgetown), 1988 (lost to Syracuse), 1995 (lost to UConn) and 1997 (beat Boston College)
 
The win was Villanova's third this year over Seton Hall after the Wildcats lost to the Pirates last year in the Big East championship game.
 
Seton Hall had won its last two Big East Tournament games against Villanova, in 2014 and 2016. This was Villanova's first since a 61-60 win in the first round in 2004.
 
Stat of the day
Villanova's five starters combined for just nine points in the game's first 15½ minutes, shooting 4 for 18 during that span.
 
Sick bay
Sophomore Mikal Bridges, who missed all but the first minute of the St. John's game on Thursday with a stomach virus, started and played 25 minutes, finishing with five points.
 
By the numbers
• Rodriguez led Seton Hall with 14 points and Carrington added 11 

• Kris Jenkins struggled again from the field, shooting 1 for 7 and 0 for 4 from three for four points.

• Villanova shot just 5 for 18 from three 

• The Wildcats shot 27 percent from the field in the first half (7 for 26) but 59 percent in the second half (13 for 22).
 
What's next
Villanova will play in the Big East Conference championship game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the Creighton-Xavier game scheduled for later Friday.

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

ap-jay-wright.jpg
AP Images

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. 

Donte DiVincenzo latest Villanova player to declare for NBA draft

usa-donte-divincenzo.jpg
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.