Big East

Big East releases conference slate

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The Big East will open conference play with a quartet of games, headlined by the defending-national champions.

Villanova will host DePaul (6:30 ET), Providence visits Xavier (7 p.m.), Creighton welcomes Seton Hall ( 8 p.m.) and Georgetown goes to Marquette (8:30 p.m.) on Dec. 28, to tip off league play, it was announced Tuesday.

Other highlights include Xavier travelling to Georgetown on New Year’s Eve, Xavier at Villanova on Jan. 10, the five-game Big East marathon on Jan. 16 and Villanova at Xavier on Feb. 11.

The Big East tournament runs March 8-11.

Click here for the full schedule.

Looking Forward: Josh Hart’s Draft decision changes the course of Villanova’s season

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — Villanova’s unlikely run to the 2016 national title captured America’s attention and solidified Jay Wright’s program as a national power. Nobody expected the Wildcats to be champions. In one prominent bracket challenge last March, more people picked Villanova to lose in the first round to a No. 15 seed than win the national championship.

Kris Jenkins’ legendary buzzer-beater helped change the public perception of Villanova. People respect them now, which makes sense considering that Villanova is potentially in position to be the team with the best chance to repeat as national champions since Florida took home back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.

“Potentially” being the key word.

Because they just have to wait on the NBA decision of junior Josh Hart.

If the 6-foot-6, do-it-all guard decides to return to Philadelphia for his senior season, then Villanova returns approximately 70 percent of its scoring and rebounding from last season’s title team. Since Florida went back-to-back, no defending champion in the “one-and-done” era outside of Louisville in 2013 comes even close to those returning totals. Of the eight defending champions since Florida, none have made it past the Sweet 16. Three defending champions missed the tournament completely — North Carolina in 2010, Kentucky in 2013 and UConn in 2015, to say nothing of the fact that Florida went to the NIT in back-to-back years after their back-to-back titles.

And all but two of those eight defending champions were ranked in the preseason top five.

Villanova will likely find itself in the top five of preseason polls for the 2016-17 season, but it will be based on a roster that has already succeeded at the college level. It won’t be half respect and half recruiting hype; Villanova is returning a ton of players who just won on the sport’s biggest stage.

Most defending champions since Florida had to completely re-tool rosters that were filled with future NBA lottery picks and one-and-done freshmen, but Villanova only has to deal with the loss of seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu if Hart decides to come back.

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Hart knows all of the factors involved in his decision, and he’s weighing them all accordingly. But how do you decide between chasing your dreams and chasing history?

“I’d probably say [I’m] 50-50. My dream is to play in the NBA and I definitely want to pursue that but I love Villanova,” Hart said at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “I love the program. I love the people that we have. I love the school and the support that we have there. Torn between two good situations. Obviously, you want to have this choice, a choice of having two good situations. But it’s a tough one.”

While Nova Nation sits and waits on Hart’s next move, ironically, he’s one of the only students currently left on Villanova’s campus. Like many NBA Draft hopefuls who didn’t hire an agent to go through this process, Hart is staying at school to work out for the draft as he will likely decide his future on the final day, May 25th.

And on that final day, Hart will go over his options with a support system that includes his parents, Jay Wright and Villanova assistant Baker Dunleavy. Until then, most of the other students on Villanova’s campus — including Hart’s teammates — have left for break, so Hart is left to working out on his own and playing XBox in his dorm room. When he’s not getting up shots or working out for a NBA team, Hart is a self-described “homebody”, a national champion who would be recognized all over Philly that opts to keep his competitive juices flowing during the offseason via XBox — Call of Duty: Black Ops III or NBA 2K16 are his go-to games.

“My walls are taking a beating between me hitting it and me throwing my controller around,” Hart said.

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Between working out and games of 2K, Hart hears the lobbying from Villanova fans and deciding what the future may hold. Losing Arcidiacono and Ochefu will undoubtedly hurt the Wildcats next season. But Jalen Brunson, a former McDonald’s All-American point guard, will help mitigate the loss of Arch while the Wildcats also add forward Eric Paschall, a transfer from Fordham, and bring in a talented recruiting class that includes five-star big man Omari Spellman. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth should all be expected to improve from last season, when they were counted on as role players for the most part.

“I think they could be stars at different programs,” Hart said. “The way we play, we don’t look like we have a star.”

And if Hart decides to return to Villanova, the Wildcats will again be a matchup nightmare, as Jenkins is also returning to school after flirting with the NBA Draft.

“We were very young last year. We’re only losing two guys. Granted, they were huge leaders on our team. But it’s the guys that are there. The guys that are coming in are very talented and dedicated to playing Villanova basketball and being all-in to that system,” Hart said. “Obviously if I come back that goal is to repeat, but with or without me, they’re going to make a deep run.”

If he decides to close out his college basketball career with one final season, Hart knows that making a repeat run will be tough. If you bring up that Florida team to Hart, he’s also quick to downplay any sort of comparison. In talking to media at the NBA combine, Hart said he models his game after players like Tony Allen, Danny Green and Courtney Lee — role players who were all picked at least No. 22 or later in the NBA Draft.

Without missing a beat, Hart could name three members of the Florida national championship teams.

“[We’re] not really like them,” Hart said. “I think they had three lottery guys come back with Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. They had three guys that could go in the top 14 come back. So it’s a little bit different situation. But that would be the goal if I were to come back. The goal would be to repeat so I would look after that team.”

Villanova will have different roster makeup than Florida did for those championship seasons, but they’re also in the best position of any team since that Gator group to make a deep NCAA tournament run after winning a championship.

The Wildcats won’t have a roster littered with future lottery picks and they’ll probably get passed over for younger teams with more future NBA talent when people pick a preseason national champion. But if Hart returns, it would be wise to keep the Wildcats in mind for the 2017 national championship. With Hart back, Villanova isn’t even close to a sure thing, but it’ll be intriguing to see how they bounce back after the national title.

“At the end of the day, there’s no guarantees in anything. There’s no guarantee that I go back next year and we have a great year,” Hart said. “I could go back next year, have a good year and be in the same position that I am now. That’s something I have to think about. There’s no guarantees in this process.”

Foot injury sidelines Villanova freshman DiVincenzo

Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo (10) takes a shot past Nebraska forward Nick Fuller (23) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, in Villanova, Pa. Villanova won 87-63. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
Associated Press
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Villanova has one of the deeper backcourt rotations in the country, but Friday morning they announced that they’ll be a man short in this area for the next four to six weeks.

6-foot-6 freshman guard Donte DiVincenzo suffered a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot, and with the school’s timeline he isn’t expected back until mid-January at the earliest. DiVincenzo missed the Wildcats’ home win over La Salle on Sunday as a result of the injury.

The freshman from Delaware is averaging just over nine minutes per game for Villanova, which relies upon the likes of Ryan Arcidiacono, Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges for their majority of the minutes on the perimeter. All five of those guards play at least 19 minutes per game with Hart leading the way at 30.4 mpg, so it’s likely that DiVincenzo’s minutes get spread amongst this quintet moving forward.

VIDEO: Monmouth ‘Bench Mob’ at it again in win over Georgetown

King Rice
Associated Press
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While the antics of the Monmouth Bench Mob have certainly been entertaining to this point in the season, it’s important to realize that the players these reserves are celebrating are pretty doggone good. King Rice’s team added another win over a power conference opponent to its résumé as they won 83-68 at Georgetown Tuesday night.

The Hawks, who have also beaten UCLA, Notre Dame and USC, outplayed the Hoyas from the start as they picked up their first-ever win over a Big East opponent (1-30). Je’lon Hornbeak lead a balanced effort with 18 points as Monmouth shot 10-for-20 from three and 31-for-37 from the foul line. Monmouth didn’t shoot an impressive percentage from the field overall (42.9 percent), but their ability to attack Georgetown off the dribble resulted in numerous opportunities from three by way of using the dribble drive to kick the ball out to open shooters.

With options such as Hornbeak, Justin Robinson, Micah Seaborn and Deon Jones, the Hawks have multiple players capable of hurting teams off the bounce, and that’s what happened to Georgetown. The Hoyas began the game with subpar energy, which is a bit surprising given Monmouth’s credentials to this point in the season, and the visitors too advantage. By the time Georgetown was fully engaged in the game it was too late, with Monmouth doing a solid job on the defensive end.

Georgetown shot just 32.8 percent from the field and 7-for-30 from three, and outside of freshman Jessie Govan (14 points, four rebounds) they didn’t get much offensively from their big men. Monmouth has players in the post, but that was one aspect of the matchup where the Hoyas should have been able to grab the advantage. Instead they struggled, with Bradley Hayes scoring just one point and Marcus Derrickson three.

King Rice’s veteran team plays without fear and doesn’t back down from anyone, which is a big reason why they’re off to a 7-3 start and have one of the better résumés in college basketball to this point in the season. Nothing wrong with taking joy in the exploits of the players at the end of the bench, but it’s important to understand that Monmouth is for real.

Could the Hawks be an at-large candidate come March? That remains to be seen as there’s a lot of basketball to be played, but there’s no overlooking what they’ve been able to accomplish to this point.

Butler’s Chris Holtmann gets students free coffee during final exams

Chris Holtmann
Associated Press
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The college basketball schedule is light this week thanks to many schools having to navigate final exams, and this can be a stressful time. So for those wishing to either relax or refuel for more studying, what’s better than a free drink from a local coffeeshop (those “adult” beverages may not help with studying)?

That’s what Butler students who took up head coach Chris Holtmann on his offer of a free drink from Starbucks received Monday. Holtmann sent out the word via his Twitter account on Monday, and numerous students took him up on his offer that afternoon. And he seemed a bit surprised by just how many students made the trek.

Everyone likes free stuff, most especially college students. Good luck to everyone going through final exams this week.

No. 9 Villanova uses 3-point shooting to beat La Salle 76-47

Josh Hart, Jordan Pric
Associated Press

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Josh Hart scored 18 points and Ryan Arcidiacono had 14 to lead No. 9 Villanova past La Salle 76-47 on Sunday.

The Wildcats (8-1) bounced back from their first loss of the season, 78-55 to No. 7 Oklahoma on Monday. They hit 13 3-pointers and had 24 assists on 28 baskets and again flexed their muscle as the class of Philadelphia basketball.

The Wildcats have won 12 straight games in the Big 5, round-robin play among five Philadelphia Division I basketball teams that dates to 1955.

Hart connected on two straight 3s midway through the first half to open a double-digit lead, and Villanova dominated from there.

The Wildcats missed 28 of 32 3-pointers against Oklahoma. They had made 11 of 19 when they doubled up the Explorers 66-33 midway through the second half.

Villanova holds the city series record with 14 straight victories from 2004-05 to 2007-08. The Explorers beat the Wildcats three seasons ago, the year they reached the Sweet 16.

La Salle hasn’t made the postseason since that remarkable run and played like a team on the brink of extending that streak another season.

Jordan Price, who entered third in the nation in scoring at 25.9 points per game, led the Explorers with 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting.

The Wildcats reached 70 points with 6:30 left and have won 36 consecutive games when scoring at least that many.

Hart, Jalen Brunson and Arcidiacono opened the second half with 3-pointers that turned a comfortable lead into a full-blown rout. Brunson, the highly touted freshman guard, scored 13 points.

Without much reason for sustained excitement, Daniel Ochefu snapped the crowd out of a funk with three rim-shaking dunks. He also grabbed 10 rebounds.

Inside or outside, the Explorers were no match for a Villanova team again stamped the Big East favorite.


La Salle: The Explorers have made a 3-pointer in 786 straight games, the 13th-longest streak in the nation. … La Salle has lost three straight games.

Villanova: F Kris Jenkins was benched for a minor academic infraction. Phil Booth got the start. Jenkins scored three points and Booth had 10. … The Wildcats had 13 assists on 14 baskets in the first half. … Coach Jay Wright emptied the bench with 2:48 left.


La Salle returns from a long break for exams Dec. 22 at the Palestra against Miami.

Villanova plays Saturday at No. 10 Virginia.