2018 Villanova Wildcats Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
I will say this right up front just to be clear - you should absolutely not listen to a word I say about Villanova. I have had had much less of a handle on this team the last three years than any other in the country. I have consistently questioned their mental toughness, their depth, and their coaching. And all they have done in that time is win two of the last three national titles, absolutely destroying my beloved Michigan Wolverines to cut down the nets last March. There are teams out there that I just can't seem to figure out, or rather won't accept what is in front of me, and Villanova is at the head of that pack. And given all the changes and questions facing the team this year, there is no certainty that I will do any better now. You have been warned.
Villanova Wildcats Additions/Losses
Wow, this team has lost a lot. Three guys were drafted in the first round - Mikal Bridges 10th to Phoenix, Donte DiVincenzo 17th to Milwaukee, and Omari Spellman 30th to Atlanta. And Jalen Brunson went 33rd to Dallas as well. All four were key pieces of last year's title win, and all but Spellman had multiple years with the team. It leaves them with a very different roster this year, but one surprisingly still well-positioned both in terms of experience and depth. It's also worth noting that longtime assistant Ashley Howard, who played a key role in both title runs, has left to become head coach at La Salle.
The team added one transfer this year, grad transfer Joe Cremo from Albany. He has played in a system at Albany that is similar to what Villanova likes to do. And as a smart player who shoots well and is versatile, the guard could play a big role off the bench.
The team put together a solid recruiting class, though perhaps not quite as good as you might guess two national titles and plenty of open roster spots would give you. The top name is five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, who is likely to step into the starting role. He is the lowest ranked of the 29 consensus five-star players and will likely need some time to grow into full effectiveness. On the plus side, the risk of him leaving after one year is almost none. Behind him are three four-star talents. Cole Swider is an elite shooter who should see some playing time and fits the team like a glove. And guard Saddiq Bey and forward Brandon Slater have upside but will both likely require patience.
Villanova Wildcats Outlook
With all of those guys gone, the responsibility to lead this team lies with Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, two redshirt seniors. Paschall redshirted for the first title after transferring from Fordham, but he was a big part of last year's run, scoring 24 in the Final Four game versus Kansas. His usage was a little limited by being behind so many talented guys, but with them gone the path is open for his numbers to take a big leap. He is the top option and is worthy of that role. Booth scored 20 in the 2016 title game and was a starter last year. It's rare for a team to lose as much as Villanova did and still have two guys this experienced and talented waiting to lead the team.
Beyond them, though, the questions start. How long does it take Quinerly to become functional? Jalen Brunson's shoes are mighty big to step right into. Collin Gillispie was promising last year as a freshman, but there is certainly more pressure on the guard now with the departures. Can he make a big sophomore leap? Can Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree make a sophomore leap as well after a freshman year at center that was limited in impact and which really exposed how raw he is? In an ideal world he would play starter minutes this year, but that is a lot to ask. And how about sophomore Jermaine Samuels, who could really be used off the bench but isn't building on a lot from last year? He could be the next Mikal Bridges for the team but hasn't yet shown he is up to that.
Villanova Wildcats Schedule
There are some tough games on the nonconference schedule. After two laughers to warm up, they have a rematch with a Michigan team that is missing their best player from last year, Mo Wagner, but will still be tough. The Wildcats' preseason tournament is the AdvoCare Invitational, and it could certainly be worse - a finals matchup against LSU or Florida State would be tough but manageable. The date that is really circled, though, is on Dec. 15 when they travel to Allen Fieldhouse to face the Kansas team that enters the season ranked No. 1 - and which will be out for revenge after the Wildcats knocked them out of the tournament last year.
The conference schedule is what it is. If the team is struggling late, a five-game stretch could give them issues - they play three in a row on the road in eight days and then host solid Marquette and Butler teams.
Villanova Wildcats Futures Odds
Ranked ninth in the AP poll, Villanova sits seventh in the likelihood of winning the title at Bovada at +1800. Favorites Duke and Kentucky are only at +500, so the gap between Villanova and the elites isn't seen to be too far.
Villanova Wildcats Predictions
Whatever Villanova has been doing is obviously working. But they have lost everything they did last year on top of Josh Hart and others before that. They still have some very nice talent in Paschall and Booth and some young guys who fit the system well and have upside. I can't shake the feeling, though, that this is going to be a relative transition year. They could and should win the Big East this year, but I am skeptical that they can win it all again. Of course, my skepticism means you should run out and bet your house on them in the futures market - my doubt is their fuel, it seems.
Doc's Sports Advisory Board has set some lofty standards worldwide for college basketball handicapping. They normally do their best work at the beginning of the season. Get $60 worth of premium members' picks free . No credit card needed, and you will never deal with a salesman. Also, find out more about Doc's Sports expert handicappers college basketball results here . Get daily free college basketball picks on Doc's Sports NCAA hoops predictions page.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Get all of this Weeks College Basketball Picks
Get all of this Weeks guaranteed Expert College Basketball Picks