Villanova Wildcats

Villanova boosts No. 1 seed résumé as Wright ties career wins record

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Villanova boosts No. 1 seed résumé as Wright ties career wins record

BOX SCORE 

Jay Wright found another fashionable tie at Villanova.

The GQ coach with a national title on his finely tailored resume hit another milestone that suits him on the sideline: Wright moved into a tie atop Villanova's career wins list with 413 in the fourth-ranked Wildcats' 97-73 victory over Georgetown on Saturday night.

Wright improved to 413-165 since he took the job in 2001 and has led the Wildcats to the 2009 Final Four and 2016 national championship. He matched Al Severance, who went 413-201 from 1936-1961. Wright can top Severance with a win in the Big East Tournament.

"The real thrill and the pride comes with just being the coach at Villanova," Wright said. "That's enough for me."

The Wildcats head to Madison Square Garden as the No. 2 seed after their run of four straight regular-season conference titles was ended by Xavier.

There's little worry on the Main Line that Villanova can't make a deep run in the postseason. The Wildcats (27-4, 14-4) beat Xavier twice this season and will surely be a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But losing their grip on the Big East title still stung the Wildcats.

"You definitely would love to win a championship. This is the time you look at it," Wright said. "I purposely didn't look at that (Xavier) game today. You would definitely rather win the championship. So you take from that, what did you learn?"

They learned how to punish the Hoyas wire-to-wire.

They used the Hoyas (15-14, 5-13) as little more than a tune-up in the finale and took a 15-point lead in the first half that was never seriously challenged. Mikal Bridges scored 24 points and Jalen Brunson solidified his player of the year candidacy with 16 points and seven assists.

Brunson and Bridges, two underclassmen likely playing their final home game, received a standing ovation from the crowd of 18,523.

Yes, the Wildcats had been upset at the Wells Fargo Center this season by St. John's, a team that was winless in the Big East, but the outcome seemed a mere formality against Patrick Ewing's Hoyas.

The Hoyas missed all nine 3-point attempts in the first half. Jesse Govan scored 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and he went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.

"They make you pay for every mistake that you make," Ewing said.

The second half served as a mere countdown toward Wright's ascension to a share of the top of the record book.

Wright led the Wildcats, who won the 1985 national title under his mentor Rollie Massimino, to their greatest run of success in program history. They've won at least 32 games each of the previous three seasons and he's led them to the NCAAs all but one year (2012) since 2005.

Wright, a Churchville, Pennsylvania native, played college basketball at Bucknell and started as an assistant at Rochester and Drexel. He spent five seasons at Villanova as Massimino's assistant, then followed him to UNLV for another two years before taking the head coaching job at Hofstra in 1994.

Hired in 2001 to replace Steve Lappas, Wright took the Wildcats to the top of every meaningful stat -- including an eight-week stint this year at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll.

"Coach wants us to be the best we can be," Bridges said.

Big Picture 
Georgetown: The Hoyas will have to win the Big East to earn an NCAA bid. They've lost four straight. ... The Hoyas played without F Marcus Derrickson (15.7 points, 8.1 rebounds) because of an injured right ankle.

Villanova: The Wildcats have to escape New York without any significant injuries to key players to have a shot at starting March Madness as one of the favorites to win it all. ... The Wildcats went 11-1 this year at the Wells Fargo Center, their one-year home while the on-campus Pavilion is renovated. "I miss the Pavilion, I'll be honest," Brunson said. ... Made all 13 free throws.

Kid Stuff
Ewing recalled the days when Brunson tagged along with dad Rick Brunson in the New York Knicks locker room in the late 1990s. Ewing's son used to babysit Brunson.

"He was about 4 or 5 and he never left my locker," Ewing said. "I wish back then I knew I'd be coaching. I'd have started recruiting him from back then."

Up Next
Georgetown: Plays St. John's at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Big East Tournament.

Villanova: The Wildcats play the winner of the No. 7-10 game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at MSG.

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. 

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.