Entering March Madness, Villanova has become the most dominant college team in the country. Currently the Wildcats are ranked number one in the country and are the defending national champions. They also have two of the most dynamic guards in the country with Mr. Do-It-All Josh Hart and All-Big East First Teamer Jalen Brunson, who spurned talk about leaving for the NBA and returned to Villanova for his sophomore year. Yet with all of the positives going for Jay Wright and the Wildcats there are still some glaring holes that could potentially prevent Villanova from defending their national title crown.
The biggest figurative and literal issue for ‘Nova stems from academics, that left a huge void in the middle of the Wildcats lineup. While Daniel Ochefu’s graduation was expected, Ochefu was supposed to be replaced by Omari Spellman. Spellman is a 6-foot-9, 265-pound five-star recruit that would be the necessary presence in the interior for Jay Wright and his squad as they are on their quest to win consecutive national titles. Yet due to Spellman transferring to a private school as a 9th grader and being reclassified as an 8th grader, Spellman was considered ineligible for this year.
That lack of size inside could be exploited against basketball blue bloods Duke, Kentucky, or even their potential second round matchup in Wisconsin. For the Blue Devils, the combination of Jayson Tatum and Amile Jefferson could exploit Villanova’s lack of a true center in an NCAA tournament game. Against the likes of Wisconsin, the Wildcats will have to deal with 6-foot-10 Ethan Happ, who put up nearly 14 points per game and 9 rebounds.
The formula can also ring true if Villanova goes against John Calipari and Kentucky in the title game. Freshman Edrice Adebayo and sophomore Isaac Humphries could control the paint and end the title run of Villanova. What makes Kentucky scarier than Duke has been the play of Malik Monk, who put up 47 points against North Carolina earlier in the season.
The second glaring issue for Villanova is depth. Not only does Spellman’s lose still hurt, but so does Phil Booth’s injury. Booth appeared in all 40 games for the Wildcats last season but primarily came off the bench. Booth has been sidelined with tendinitis in his left knee and has not appeared in a game since November 17th. Booth has yet to appear in a game. While there have been no signs of Hart and Brunson wearing down, who knows what another month of basketball could do. The Wildcats have been lucky by the emergence of redshirt freshman Donte DiVincenzo, who averaged 8.3 points per game and 3.5 rebounds off the bench.
While these are two factors that hurt Villanova on paper, it has not yet hurt their performance so far. They currently have the talent to defeat most teams even with their lack of size and depth. But all it takes is one slip up in March to end your season.
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-(1) Villanova faces (5) West Virginia in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament