Villanova Wildcats

Villanova NCAA Tournament Notes: Wright's fashion faceoff with Huggins

Villanova NCAA Tournament Notes: Wright's fashion faceoff with Huggins

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It's the NCAA Tournament, so a little smack talk is in order.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins started things off Wednesday during his press conference at KeyBank Center, taking aim at Villanova coach Jay Wright.
"I keep telling him, if I'd lose a little bit of weight, he'd be the second-best looking coach out there," Huggins said.
OK, so maybe it's not exactly bulletin board material for the Wildcats, who will begin defense of their national championship Thursday night against 16th-seeded Mount St. Mary's (see story).
Huggins, who will lead his team against Bucknell, dished on his relationship with Wright.
"I think he's a heck of a coach," he said. "We had just great games when we were both in the Big East."
The topic eventually turned to fashion, and Huggins explained how it came to be that he is known for wearing a pullover during games. The short story is that he sweated through a suit and tie one game so badly he needed to change at halftime.
That led to Wright being asked about his fashion sense.
"The reason that I dress that way, it's just been the tradition, you know, in coaching you wear a suit and tie," he said. "But Hugs is -- I would like to do an article on the lines Hugs gives me before the game when you shake hands about your attire, his attire, your look, his look. It's great. It could fill an article.
"I like Hugs' look. When you wear a nice suit and you're in the huddle and they're sweating on your suit, the guys are dripping on top of you. I'm thinking, 'Why am I wearing this nice suit?' But it's tradition."
Battling old memories in Buffalo
Buffalo hasn't made the best impression on Josh Hart.
The Wildcats' senior guard was part of the Villanova team that lost as a No. 2 seed to UConn in 2014. The Huskies went on to win the national championship that year.
"I remember that one vividly," Hart said. "Shabazz Napier, that UConn team, they were tough and talented, but we try not to think about that too much now.
"Obviously, you know, we knew we were playing in Buffalo. That was the first thing. When we heard Buffalo, we were like, 'We went there freshman year. We had a tough game against UConn there.' But now, we don't really think about it. I think the only time we thought about it was the first time we heard we were probably going to be going to Buffalo. And it was like, 'Oh, Buffalo.'"
Hart and his teammates arrived in western New York Monday in an effort to beat a snowstorm that hit much of the East Coast. The weather in Buffalo has been pretty much what you might expect -- snowy.
"I thought I'd get to see the sun," Hart said. "I hope that's not what it's like up here all 365 days. I mean, I like the warm weather, so I don't want to say go back home because I think it's snowing in Philly, too. We just got to tough through it the last couple weeks and put up with the weather. So I guess you could say we feel like Buffalonians."
The Wildcats holed up inside their team hotel Monday night.
"We watched a movie together. That was really about it," Hart said. "I wish I could tell you we had like this epic snowball fight and it was amazing. But, no, not really. We've just been in our rooms, just relaxing, taking our mind off the tournament, and just enjoying each other's company."

Know your foe
The Wildcats gathered as a team Tuesday night to watch Mount St. Mary's victory.
Senior forward Darryl Reynolds came away impressed with what he saw.
"They're a good team," he said. "They're a good team like every team in this tournament. They play fast, they seem to play hard. They're disciplined in their coaching."
After he was done responding, Reynolds moved toward the microphone and said, "Sorry if I wasn't talking loud enough. I just realized I could have leaned a little bit forward. … I'm sitting here whispering. I'm sorry about that."
"You're coachable. Good work," the press conference's moderator replied.
One shining moment
Get ready to see arguably the greatest moment in Villanova history on repeat.
Kris Jenkins' game-winning three-pointer in the national championship game against North Carolina last year immediately became one of the iconic plays in college basketball. Jenkins, however, insisted again Wednesday that it's just that to him -- history.
"I don't even think about it," he said. "I talk about it when I'm asked about it. It wasn't hard for me because I still have a lot that I want to accomplish. I'm a part of this great team with these great guys and the guys in the locker room. So, when you have guys around you like that, it's easy to refocus."

That ability has amazed Wright.
"He's a confident, cocky -- in a good way -- kid," the coach said. "We talked about it right after the season. And he's real bright. He's really bright. When we talked about, 'You still got a year left, you want to get better, you got this for the rest of your life.' He right away internalizes that."
Wright has specifically watched Jenkins during practice to see if there is ever a moment he lets his guard down.
"When the guys do shooting drills at the end of practice or they're doing competitions, you would think one time it would slip, 'I hit the big shot,'" Wright said. "I've never ever, ever seen him mention it ever, and it's really impressive."

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

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.