Villanova Wildcats

Rob's Rants — Yes, Villanova is a Philly team

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Rob's Rants — Yes, Villanova is a Philly team

What Villanova has done in recent years is nothing short of amazing. Only Florida, who won back-to-back titles in 2006-07, has won as many national titles in as short a period of time in the last 25 years in men’s college basketball. The Wildcats are elite. They are a “blue blood” program. They are right there with the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas. They also have so dominated city play that they have completely separated themselves from their Big 5 brethren. As a Temple grad, that last sentence hurts. But so does the truth.

And as it did two years ago when Jay Wright’s team won the championship, the “debate” of whether Villanova is a “Philly” team or not, has reared its parochial head. This one is right up there with the dumbest debates I’ve ever heard. We do provincial like no other area but even by Philadelphia standards, this one is ridiculous. Let’s start with proximity. Villanova’s campus is a stone’s throw away from the city limits. We’re not talking about State College here. Just to put it into perspective, if you cross City Avenue on St. Joe's campus, you’re in the suburbs.

'Nova’s squad has a lot of local flavors. Wright is a Council Rock North grad. Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, all rotational players, are all local. Jalen Brunson spent his early years in South Jersey.        

I get if you graduated from one of the other Big 5 schools, of course when your school plays Villanova, you want it to lose. That’s a given. I’m not one who even says you have to root for them when the Wildcats are making a deep tournament run. Full disclosure, I do root for all the local teams when not playing Temple, come tourney time. Winning has not made Wright brash and arrogant as it did his mentor, Rollie Massimino. He values the tradition of the Big 5 and what it means to the city. But to claim they’re not a “Philadelphia” team comes off small and in some cases, strikes as bitter and jealous of Villanova’s success.

The fall of Nerlens
The great Nerlens Noel was suspended by the NBA for five for violating its anti-drug policy. Meaning this was Noel’s third positive test. This is a guy who in the offseason reportedly turned down a four-year, $70 million deal from Dallas. Noel, who always valued his ability far more than any NBA executive or talent-evaluator, wanted a max deal. Dallas had no interest, neither did any other NBA team. He ended up signing a one-year, $4.5 million qualifying offer. Noel averaged 4.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in 30 games this season. Many of which he was a DNP — Coach's Decision.

When the Sixers dealt him at the trade deadline last year for Justin Anderson and what turned out to be two second-round picks, there was much outrage in these parts that they didn’t get enough in return. Turns out they did. Noel’s offensive game is greatly limited. He is a good defensive player, far from elite. And for a 6-foot-11 guy, he has never averaged more than 8.1 rebounds per game in his career. He’s not on the bust level of Jahlil Okafor, but he’s closer to him than he is special.

Donte DiVincenzo latest Villanova player to declare for NBA draft

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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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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.