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, Pa. (AP) Villanova could stand to raise some funds for a new trophy case.
The Wildcats opened last season winning the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, New York. That was just a warmup for 12 straight wins and a Big East championship. Then it was three more wins and a Big East tournament championship.
Josh Hart even earned conference sixth man of the year honors, pointing everything toward celebration on the Main Line.
Except for one thing – the Wildcats again flopped in March, when college basketball matters most.
Thirty years after Villanova won an improbable national championship, the top-seeded Wildcats were booted in the second game of the NCAA tournament by North Carolina State. President Barack Obama had even cast his vote for Villanova to reach the national championship game.
The Wildcats have been impeached from the tournament in the first weekend every season they’ve made it since they played in the 2009 Final Four. That’s a 3-5 record that has raised some questions if the Wildcats can ever truly become elite under coach Jay Wright.
They’ll try again this season, ranked 11th in the AP Top 25 poll and the Big East favorite.
Wright said he’s looked hard at fixing the tournament problems.
“It’s more from the coaching standpoint than the players,” he said. “It’s little tactical things we could do. It’s two years in a row playing a 1-16 game or 2-15 game, then going to a high-level game the next game. Maybe the coaching staff – me – didn’t do a good enough job in between those games.”
Wright said the regular season can’t be considered anything but a success but added, “I get it” why his program is judged on March alone.
Hart, guard Ryan Arcidiacono, forward Kris Jenkins and forward Daniel Ochefu all return from a team looking to prove they really are built for the long haul.
But it’s the new kid in town that could give the program the jolt it needed as tries for the first national championship since 1985.
BRUNSON BURNER: Jalen Brunson, a 6-foot-2 guard and McDonald’s All-American, is the most highly-touted recruit to hit campus in years. Brunson is the son of former Temple star and NBA player Rick Brunson. He was unanimously named the Big East Rookie of the Year and could help the Wildcats erase their March doldrums. Wright said Brunson was an intelligent, gritty guard who might be around for only one or two seasons, a rarity for a program built on the strength of upperclassman.
“I know one thing that concerns me is that he’s gotten so much hype, that when people hear hype, they expect Andrew Wiggins,” Wright said. “He’s not that.”
NEW ARENA: Villanova’s 6,500-seat Pavilion opened in 1986 – and was outdated by 1987. Most high school gyms have more restrooms and concession stands than the Pavilion and Wright said plans are in full swing for either a new arena or complete renovation.
“We sell this place out every game,” Wright said. “But for the school, we could create more revenue. The place looks great on TV. It’s just not good for fans and it doesn’t generate the revenue like a new arena would.”
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Because seating capacity is almost tripled, the Wildcats save their biggest games each season for the Wells Fargo Center.
But with the arena the site of an NCAA tournament regional this season, Villanova was limited to only three games during the regular season if it wanted the option of playing in March at home.
“We didn’t want to be arrogant about making the decision, like we’re going to get there,” Wright said. “But if we did get that far, and we didn’t give ourselves that chance, it probably would be irresponsible. We actually take a revenue hit doing it.”
FIFTH FRANCHISE: The 76ers might be good around the next Republican presidential debate – in 2019. The Flyers are mired in mediocrity, the Eagles hope a .500 record can win them the NFC East and the Phillies are a few years off from contention. That leaves the Wildcats standing tall as the lone Philly sports bright spot through an otherwise bleak winter.
“We’re used to people paying attention to us once the Eagles’ season is over,” Wright said. “But it’s fine if they want to watch now.”
Big East Preview: Is there a real challenger to Villanova?
Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Today, we are previewing the Big East Conference.
The Big East Conference landed six teams in the NCAA tournament last season. The Big East might not replicate that number come Selection Sunday, but the 10-league members should make for another unpredictable season.
Villanova should be the unanimous preseason pick, given what the Wildcats have accomplished over the past two years (two regular season titles and the 2015 Big East Tournament championship) and the key pieces they bring back, inclduding Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu and Josh Hart. Georgetown, Butler and Xavier should all pose as Villanova’s biggest competition, though the order in which they finish is up for debate.
The same could be said for the rest of the conference. St. John’s is likely out of the mix following a massive roster overhaul, but Nos. 5-9 could end up in a variety of ways.
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
1. Kris Dunn spurned NBA: Kris Dunn could have been a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, but choose to return to Providence for his junior season. This is a gamble on Dunn’s part, given the recurring shoulder injury that plagued his first two seasons. But with the return of Dunn, arguably the top player in college basketball, the Friars eye an NCAA tournament for the third time in as many seasons, instead of focusing on a rebuilding year.
2. Villanova postseason cut short again: In 2014, Villanova, a No. 2 seed, was upset by eventual champion UConn in the Round 0f 32. This past March, the Wildcats validated critics who believed that they were unworthy of a No. 1 seed, exiting the tournament in the Round of 32 again, this time at the hands of No. 8 N.C. State. Jay Wright led the Wildcats to the Final Four in 2009. In five tournament appearances since, Villanova hasn’t gotten out of the first weekend. Villanova can prove its among the top programs in the country with non-conference matchups against Oklahoma and Virginia, but it won’t matter unless NCAA tournament success follows.
3. Chris Mullin returns: After five seasons, St. John’s and Steve Lavin decided to part ways. This paved the way for a Chris Mullin homecoming. The Brooklyn native led the Johnnies to the 1985 Final Four before enjoying a Hall of Fame career as a player. Since retiring, he’s worked as both a broadcaster and in NBA front office’s but he returns to his alma mater with zero coaching experience. He inherits a team that lost its entire rotation, but Mullin has made tremendous strides in his first few months as a head coach, surrounding himself with talented recruiters, who have overhauled the roster and helped land a pair of four-star recruits.
4. Impact freshmen: The two highest-rated recruits entering the league is Marquette’s Henry Ellenson and Villanova’s Jalen Brunson. Both five-star prospects are expected to make immediate impact. This summer offered a glimpse of what to expect this season, with Ellenson putting up big numbers on Marquette’s European tour and Brunson leading USA Basketball to a gold medal in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Greece. Brunson averaged 14.0 points and 5.6 assists per game, earning MVP honors.
5. NBA Draft: For the first time in Big East history (dating back to 1979, not 2013), no player was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. In all likelihood, that will change this June, as Kris Dunn and Henry Ellenson are both projected as lottery picks.
Favorite: “I’d say Villanova. They’ve dominated our league. They’ve been the standard the last two years. They have a lot of guys back, a lot of experience, very, very good guard play. They can all shoot and drive. They’re all very good defensively, too.”
Sleeper: “I think Marquette has a chance to be a sleeper. I think Woj has done a really good job of upgrading the talent in the last year. They return just enough guys and I think he has some really good freshmen to help elevate them to the upper part of the league.”
“You obviously have to start with Kris Dunn … Ryan Arcidiacono as well. Those two guys headline our league. [Dunn] impacts the game on both ends of the floor. He’s a two-way player. He’s a phenomenal defender. At the other end, he’s just really hard to keep out of the lane. Arcidiacono stays more within himself. He can really shoot the ball, makes the right play, tough guy. He does a great job.”
“I think Arcidiacono is the best player … He’s truly a quarterback in that system. He makes average players very, very good and he pulls that team together. He’s an extension of Jay [Wright]. I’m probably a rare guy, but I think Arch is the best player.”
Most underrated player
“I think Daniel Ochefu is very undervalued. Obviously, he’s 6-foot-11, but he’s so mobile and he’s an extremely good defender around the rim and in ball-screen defense. Then he can score on the other end.”
“Roosevelt Jones. I think people talk about him, but I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. For not being able to shoot the ball, he’s extremely talented. He understands his role. He’s one of those guys that makes a team click.”
PRESEASON BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kris Dunn, Providence
Dunn is a candidate for Preseason National Player of the Year honors, so it’s no surprise that he should be the runaway selection to repeat as Big East Player of the Year after he shared the honors last season. The 6-foot-3 Dunn, in his first full season, posted posted 15.6 points, 7.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game as a redshirt sophomore. As opposing coaches mentioned above, he impacts the game on both ends of the floor, probably more so than anyone else in the country.
THE REST OF THE BIG EAST FIRST TEAM:
RyanArcidiacono, Villanova: The experienced lead guard who shared Big East co-Player of the Year honors with Dunn last season, anchors the conference’s top perimeter attack, which includes Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth. Arcidiacono averaged 10.1 points and 3.5 assists per game and shot a career-best 37 percent from three.
Henry Ellenson, Marquette: The five-star recruit, rated No. 11 player in the class by Rivals, is the highest-rated prospect entering the Big East. The projected lottery pick will make up one of the top front courts playing alongside Luke Fischer.
Roosevelt Jones, Butler: His old-school game helped the Bulldogs turnaround the program’s first losing season in nine years. The 6-foot-4 redshirt junior, who missed the 2013-14 season due to a wrist injury, led the team in assists at 3.7 per game and added another scoring option, putting up points using his arsenal of unorthodox runners.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown: The key piece on a team loaded with talented underclassmen, the 6-foot-3 Smith-Rivera did it all for the Hoyas last season. The first-team all-conference selection averaged 16.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
Kellen Dunham, Butler
Billy Garrett Jr., DePaul
Daniel Ochefu, Villanova
Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall
BREAKOUT STAR: Jalen Reynolds, Xavier
There are several players that could fit this category (Georgetown’s Isaac Copleand or Providence’s Ben Bentil ), but Jalen Reynolds has the ability to put up an all-Big East caliber season for the Musketeers. The 6-foot-10 forward, who plays with the attitude that he can dunk everything, may be the most athletically gifted player in the conference. He averaged 9.9 points and 6.1 boards per game as a sophomore and had two strong showings in Xavier’s Sweet 16 run.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
In five seasons, Willard is 30-60 in conference, taking the Pirates to only one postseason appearance (2012 NIT). Willard is also coming off a season of highs and lows. The highs being back-to-back wins over Villanova and St. John’s to propel the Pirates in to the top-25 rankings. The lows: a 1-9 finish and the departures of starters Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina.
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : Can someone make run in March?
Through the first two years of the Big East relaunch, only one team has made it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. That was Xavier this past March, reaching the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 11 Ole Miss and No. 14 Georgia State.
Questions of the league’s strength will continue as long as postseason struggles do.
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT : The Gavitt Tipoff Games
Named in honor of the Big East founder, Dave Gavitt, the Big East and Big Ten will play eight games throughout the first week of the season. Kicking off slate of non-conference matchups is Georgetown traveling College Park to take on Maryland. The two teams haven’t played locally since 1993. The Terrapins host the Hoyas on Nov. 17.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:
1. Villanova: The conference’s most efficient offense and defense, returns a core of last year’s team. With deep guard play and a big man in the middle, Jay Wright’s team should expect to be back to the top spot in the Big East standings.
2. Georgetown: John Thompson III will rely on up to seven freshmen and sophomores. Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak, Paul White and Tre Campbell were all part of the rotation as freshmen. First-year big men Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson both had impressive outings in the Hoyas’ summer trip. The return of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera will Georgetown as the underclassmen develop over the course of the season.
3. Butler: It seems odd: a former McDonald’s All-American needing to fill the shoes left behind by a walk-on. But that’s the position Tyler Lewis finds himself in, replacing beloved Alex Barlow. The N.C. State transfer joins the veteran perimeter of sharpshooter Kellen Dunham and wing Roosevelt Jones. Like Villanova, Butler lacks depth up front, but third-year starter Andrew Chrabascz is a solid piece to have on the interior.
4. Xavier: Trevon Blueitt and Jalen Reynolds are poised for breakout years, but the Musketeers must combat the loss of both point guards, Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook (yes, 6-foot-10 Matt Stainbrook). That point guard duties will fall on the committee of Larry Austin Jr., Myles Davis and Edmond Sumner, a 6-foot-5 freshman who sat out last season. There is still enough talent on the roster for another NCAA tournament appearance for Chris Mack.
5. Providence: Kris Dunn’s return is what keeps the Friars in the top half of the league to begin the season, but players like Ben Bentil and Jalen Lindsey will need to take major steps forward in their sophomore seasons in order for PC to still be there in February/March.
6. Marquette: The trendy pick as the dark horse in the Big East, the Golden Eagles could be in for a big turnaround in the Wojo’s second year. Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer make for a good tandem on the frontline, while Traci Carter and Haanif Cheatham are other freshman to watch, playing alongside Duane Wilson in the back court.
7. Seton Hall: The Pirates are a dangerous team despite a dismal end to last season. Isaiah Whitehead, Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington all gained valuable experience as freshmen. Seton Hall will need contributions from players like Desi Rodriguez, another sophomore, and graduate transfers Braeden Anderson and Derrick Gordon if it wants to do more than pull off a few upsets.
8. Creighton: Seven of Creighton’s 14 conference losses came by five points or less, helping contribute to a last-place finish a season ago. Transfers Maurice Watson Jr. and Cole Huff should make an immediate impact alongside cast of returnees that includes James Milliken, Toby Hegner and Geoffrey Groselle. The Bluejays certainly got better, but is it enough to climb into the middle of the pack?
9. DePaul: Although the Blue Demons are slotted second from the bottom, this could be the team to surprise many this season. They return Billy Garrett Jr., Myke Henry and Tommy Hamilton IV, three double-digit scorers from last season.
10. St. John’s: Chris Mullin has covered a lot of ground since March, but the loss of last year’s entire rotation puts the Red Storm in the cellar for Year 1.
Earlier this week, Jalen Brunson, a five-star point guard from the Class of 2015, recorded his first assist in an official Villanova uniform.
During the team photo day, Brunson had fun with fellow freshman Donte Divincenzo. Brunson broke out a slip-and-slide dribble before lobbing a pass off the backboard for Divincenzo, who completed the play with a windmill dunk.
Brunson and Divincenzo were both rated in the Rivals150.
One of the questions entering this weekend was who would earn the one-seeds alongside No. 1 Kentucky, and one team that merited serious discussion was No. 3 Villanova. Jay Wright’s Wildcats have been the class of the Big East all season and that was the case in New York, as they capped a three-game run through the Big East tournament with a 69-52 win over Xavier in the title game.
And as has been the case throughout the year, the list of contributors for Villanova wasn’t limited to a select few.
Each of the eight players who played 16 minutes or more managed to score at least four points, with Dylan Ennis leading the way with 16 points. Sixth man Josh Hart, who became the first reserve to win Most Outstanding Player honors in the history of the Big East tournament added 15 points and seven rebounds and Darrun Hilliard chipped in with 12 points.
The Wildcats shot 50 percent from the field (60 percent inside of the arc) and assisted on nearly 63 percent of their made field goals. Jay Wright’s team is a selfless group, one that doesn’t particularly care about who gets the credit provided that they’re collectively successful.
That was most evident in how happy the team was when Hart received his individual honor, and his play of late is a key for Villanova as they look to make a long run in the NCAA tournament. In three games in New York the sophomore made 21 of his 29 shots from the field (9-for-14 from three), and he averaged 17.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
It’s been said on multiple occasions that Villanova doesn’t have a bonafide star, with none of their players being in the conversation for the national individual awards. But if this weekend displayed anything, it’s that Villanova is a team of players who are focused solely on being stars in their own roles.
Ryan Arcidiacono, Big East Co-Player of the Year with Providence’s Kris Dunn, scored just three points but still managed to be a steadying influence for the Wildcats. And with Arcidiacono not scoring as he can, freshman Phil Booth contributed eight points off the bench before fouling out. Daniel Ochefu, who’s been rock solid in the middle all year long, may have scored just four points against Xavier but he still matched Hart with a team-high seven rebounds.
Attributes such as selflessness and toughness are what have not only placed Villanova in a position where they can claim the program’s first one-seed since 2006, but they also make the Wildcats a serious threat to win the national title. Up 20 with 1:36 remaining Arcidiacono and Hilliard both left the court in an attempt to save the basketball, and no one would have blamed either player had they simply let the ball out of bounds go given the time and score.
But to take a play off isn’t them, and it isn’t Villanova either. While the question of whether or not that will result in the reward of a one-seed won’t be answered until Sunday evening, this much is clear: Villanova earned the designation and the respect that comes with it.
Late Night Snacks: Kansas wins in OT; Kentucky survives; Georgetown, Iowa earn quality road wins
The Jayhawks trailed by 18 in the second half and didn’t make a 3-pointer, but still won in overtime. The injury to junior forward Perry Ellis is the major development in this one, though. Ellis missed the entire second half and was checked out by trainers. Kansas was able to rally behind a furious comeback and good effort from Frank Mason III (19 points, seven rebounds) and Jamari Traylor (14 points, nine rebounds) but the uncertainty of Ellis and freshman Cliff Alexander is troubling for Kansas.
2. Georgetown 60, No. 21 Butler 54
Earning themselves a quality Big East road win was the Hoyas, who could still play their way into a pretty good seed with a solid showing in Madison Square Garden next week. In a return to his home state of Indiana, Georgetown guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 16 points and seven rebounds.
3. Iowa 77, Indiana 63
With both of these teams fighting for NCAA Tournament berths, the Hawkeyes came away with a huge road win in Bloomington. Aaron White played a huge game and came away with 21 points and five rebounds. Indiana only shot 38 percent from the floor and struggled for long periods of time on the offensive end of the floor. The Hoosiers are in for a serious fight this last week.
4. Florida 66, Texas A&M 62
The Aggies are sitting on the bubble at this point in the season and lost a tough SEC game at Florida on Tuesday night. Texas A&M only shot 35 percent from the floor as Danuel House was 0-for-10 and was held scoreless. Billy Kennedy’s team closes SEC play with a home game against Alabama before the conference tournament next week.
1. Buffalo’s Justin Moss
The forward had 22 points and 17 rebounds in a win over Ohio. The Bulls have won five consecutive games and reached 20 wins with the MAC victory on Tuesday.
OTHER TOP 25 RESULTS
Rallying in the second half, No. 1 Kentucky moved to 30-0 with a win over Georgia on the road.
Also rallying in the second half was No. 4 Villanova at Creighton. Ryan Arcidiacono’s three-point play with under a minute left was the go-ahead bucket for the Wildcats.
No. 10 Maryland won by 10 on the road at Rutgers as Dez Wells had 20 points, 10 rebounds and four steals.
North Carolina rolled past Georgia Tech as Joel Berry led the No. 19 Tar Heels with 15 points.
Ole Miss toppled Alabama for a SEC road win as guard Stefan Moody had 25 points.
Ralston Turner had 23 points and eight rebounds as NC State won on the road in the ACC against Clemson.
Keith Shamburger had 21 points to lead Missouri past Auburn.
Northwestern was able to beat Michigan in two overtimes as Alex Olah had 25 points and 12 rebounds.
Dayton held off Rhode Island in the Atlantic Ten as Jordan Sibert had 21 points and Dyshawn Pierre had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Raven Lee had 20 points to lead Eastern Michigan past Ball State in the MAC.
Kent State outlasted Bowling Green as Kris Brewer had 21 points.
Staying in the MAC, Miami (OH) was led by Eric Washington with 16 points in a win over Akron.
John Simons led three 20-point scorers for Central Michigan with 28 points as the Chippewas beat Toledo.
In the first round of the Patriot League Tournament, Holy Cross had four players with 10 points in a win over Loyola (MD).
In another Patriot League first-round game, Navy topped Army as Will Kelly had 13 points.
In the first round of the Horizon League tournament, Chris Jenkins had 21 points and nine rebounds to lead Detroit past Youngstown State.
Ty Greene had 21 points to lead USC Upstate past Kennesaw State in the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals.
Three Florida Gulf Coast players had double-doubles, led by Brett Comer’s 14 points and 11 assists in a win over Jacksonville.
Atlantic Sun No. 1 seed North Florida beat Stetson in the tournament opener as forward Beau Beech had 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Lipscomb extended its season with an overtime win over Northern Kentucky as Martin Smith had 13 points.