The sun is out. The birds are chirping. There’s the sound of enthusiasm coming from the Pavilion. Villanova Wildcats basketball is back in action.
It was good to see this team. Last year was the most fun this fan base had in the last few years. However, after N.C. State the Villanova faithful was left in shock. 33 wins and all we had to show for it was nothing. It was quite a shame.
However, this is a new season, a new team. They have a chance to start anew and put any ghosts from the past behind.
My first observation is that this team is deep. Last night, coach Jay Wright and company rolled out nine guys who played 18+ minutes. On top of that all of the starters were in double digits. While it is just Farleigh Dickinson, it is still impressive.
It is even more impressive considering that this team lost nearly 44% of its scoring from last year with JayVaughn Pinkston, Darrun Hilliard, and Dylan Ennis. Going in, fans were left wondering, who is going to make up the 1,207 points? After one game it is apparent that it won’t just be newcomer Jalen Brunson, or just an increase to the totals of Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono. If anything, it will be done as a team, with a talented nine-deep rotation.
The players that impressed me the most in this opening game were Brunson and Ochefu. The Chef was really cooking, finishing with 16 points and 10 boards. Four of his ten rebounds came on the offensive end. Hopefully, this performance will give him confidence going forward. There is nothing better than a confident Chef – see the games against Georgetown two years ago, and the game at Seton Hall last year. When he plays with a swagger, he can be the most dominant center in the Big East.
Jalen Brunson looked superb tonight and was the leading scorer in the first half for the ‘Cats. One highlight was right at the end of the half when he missed two free throws. Instead of slacking off because the team was up by a large margin and that he had just missed free throws, Brunson had the presence of mind to attack the rim. He collected his own rebound and sank the layup just before the buzzer sounded.
On top of that brilliant play, the freshman guard commanded the floor like a redshirt senior point guard. He commanded the floor and looked to distribute. Jalen was very selective in his shooting. He only took shots if he had a good look, and had a pass first mentality. He finished with 12 points and four dimes. This is just a small sample of what is to come.
The only real concern was the three-point shooting. It seems that the motto “Shoot ‘em up. Sleep in the streets.” is still alive and well. However, shooting at a 27.8% clip from deep is going to make this team sleep in the streets. Yes, this is being nitpicky, especially since Villanova won by 37, but this cannot be a trend. During the thick of conference and postseason tournament play, I do not think that shooting sub-30% will help this team win many games that become close.
Maybe in a closer game, with higher urgency, maybe the shots go in. Time will tell, but it certainly something to pay close attention to.
So there you have it. Game one is in the books, bring on Nebraska.