With Villanova’s 2016-17 schedule released on early Tuesday afternoon, here are five games to keep note of:
Where: Mackey Arena (West Lafayette, Ind.)
When: November 14, 2016, at 7 p.m.
Coverage: Big Ten Network (BTN)
Purdue will certainly miss its 7-foot center A.J. Hammons, who’s now on the Dallas Mavericks after enjoying an illustrious four-year career. While his large contributions on both ends of the court will be missed, the Boilermakers return the only two other players besides Hammons that averaged in double figures last season–sophomore Caleb Swanigan and junior Vince Edwards. Swanigan is a great all-around player. He can score inside and occasionally knock down threes. His 7-foot-3 wingspan gives opposing ballhandlers a hard time and can disrupt passing lanes. It also serves him well when rebounding the ball, averaging a team-high 8.3 boards per game last season. As for Edwards, he’s another all-around player, becoming the first player in program history to amass 675 points, 325 rebounds, and 175 assists by the end of his sophomore season. Purdue is a young team overall, but has a solid amount of experienced players who started gaining minutes early on in their careers. Purdue adds Michigan graduate transfer Spike Albrecht, who certainly adds that veteran presence and is someone who can have an impact right away. This is a team coming off of a great regular season that was ended preemptively as a 5-seed, losing in upset fashion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Expect them to come out hungry and determined, especially against the defending champs.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Where: Prudential Center (Newark, N.J.)
When: December 10, 2016, at 12 p.m.
Villanova will face former Big East foe Notre Dame as part of the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic. Like Villanova, the Fighting Irish will look to replace its top point guard and big man from last season. With Demetrius Jackson now in the NBA, and Zach Auguste graduated, Notre Dame can find some solace in knowing that it returns its three other top scorers from last season–much like the Wildcats. V.J. Beachem and Bonzie Colson both became big time contributors in their first season with expanded roles. Beachem was named the team’s most improved player–and for good reason. He was locked in from the perimeter, draining 44.4 percent of his 3-point attempts, and could even take the ball inside, if needed. Colson proved to be an efficient slasher and excellent rebounder. Meanwhile, Steve Vasturia saw a slight dip in his offensive production, but remained as one of Notre Dame’s top defenders. He offers to matchup against an opponent’s top scorer, and shut him down. Both Notre Dame and Villanova have strong alumni and student networks in the New Jersey-New York areas. Oh, and both schools have that Catholic thing going for them too.
Where: The Pavilion (Villanova, Pa.)
When: January 10, 2017, at 7 p.m.
Coverage: Fox Sports 1 (FS1)
It looked like Villanova and Xavier were going to have a tiebreaker in the Big East Tournament final last season, after splitting the regular season series one a piece. Now, it appears that they will have to settle last year’s score in their first meeting of the new season at the Pavilion. This is a new look Xavier team, which graduated James Farr and Remy Abell. Forward Jalen Reynolds also left, leaving a year early to pursue a professional career. The Musketeers certainly lose talent and experience up front with Farr and Reynolds gone, but they still have a seasoned and great back court–which should be the focal point of this team. Trevon Bluiett has been the top scorer since he first set foot on Xavier’s campus, expect him to keep that up for his third straight year. Myles Davis will facilitate the offense and look to cause some damage from the perimeter along with J.P. Macura. Edmond Sumner is back after a solid freshman season in which he finished with the second-best scoring average after Bluiett, with 11.0 points per game.
Seton Hall Pirates
Where: The Pavilion (Villanova, Pa.)
When: January 16, 2017, at 6:30 p.m.
Coverage: Fox Sports 1 (FS1)
No team has beaten Villanova more times since the reincarnation of the Big East than Seton Hall. The Pirates have beaten the Wildcats in each of the last three seasons, doing so in the Big East Tournament in 2014 and 2016, and in the regular season in January 2015. It’s quietly becoming a rivalry, an unofficial one at best. The Pirates will be without last season’s top scorer Isaiah Whitehead, who is now on the Brooklyn Nets. Whitehead’s 18.2 points per game will be missed. He may have been the heart of Seton Hall’s offense, but the Pirates have retained the rest of his classmates, who have been the core of this team. The conference saw what a year of experience allowed them to achieve as sophomores, and now they’re primed for a big junior season. Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez will see most of the scoring workload go through them. They both averaged in double figures last season. Angel Delgado has been steady force in the post on both ends of the court, averaging just shy of a double-double in points and rebounds over the last two seasons. Ismael Sanogo adds another reliable asset in the paint, although mainly as a defender and rebounder. Michael Nzei and Rashed Anthony have both made many appearances last season and will add depth to the team. Also, keep an eye out for Jevon Thomas. Thomas sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State, where he was a starter in 25 of 31 games during his sophomore season. He should get key minutes as guard and may be key in replacing Whitehead.
Where: Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia, Pa.)
When: January 29, 2017, at 1 p.m.
The post-Malcolm Brogdon era begins at Virginia. Aside from losing the All-American guard, the Cavaliers also bid farewell to starters Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill. Head coach Tony Bennett worked hard to gather their replacements, and did well by bringing in one of the top ten recruiting classes in the country. The Wahoos’ incoming freshman class is loaded with top 100 prospects and four-star recruits in Kyle Guy, Jay Huff, DeAndre Hunter, and Ty Jerome. Each of whom can shoot, score, and play defense–exactly how Virginia likes it. Their roles and impact on the team remains to be seen. Until then, the Cavaliers can turn to senior sharpshooter London Perrantes, who took a big leap forward last season. He averaged 11.0 points per game and sank 48.8 percent of his shots from long range. After Perrantes, the Cavaliers do not bring back a single player who averaged more than five points per game last season. However, Isaiah Wilkins, Devon Hall, Marial Shayok, and Darius Thompson each played big minutes last year and have dabbled in the starting lineup. Now, they’ll play a greater role on offense as well, given the departures of three out of four top scorers.
Honorable Mention: The Wildcats host the Georgetown Hoyas at the Pavilion for the first time in just over a decade. The two rivals usually clashed at the Wells Fargo Center (previously known as the Wachovia Center) for the last 10 years. The Hoyas are coming off of their first losing season under John Thompson III, so the demotion from the larger Wells Fargo Center is warranted, but certainly welcomed by students and fans who will get to pack the Pavilion for the next edition of the rivalry showdown.