The opening month of basketball is in the books for the Villanova Wildcats. The team played six games, winning four. Unfortunately, Villanova’s losses came to the only ranked teams they took on in November. The Wildcats suffered a blowout loss to Ohio State in their second game of the season. In their most recent contest, they fell to Baylor 87-78.
Villanova’s four victories were against mostly inferior opponents. The Wildcats handled Army, Ohio, and Middle Tennessee easily, defeating all of them in blowout fashion. The team’s win over against Missippi State was the only one worthy of recognition. Villanova took care of business, beating their opponent 83-76. Missippi is off to a strong start this season, sitting in first place of the SEC with a 6-1 record.
Currently, Villanova is the 22nd-best team in the country. With no conference games to speak of yet, the Wildcats are in first place in the Big East. Their December schedule kicks off Sunday, December 1st, against La Salle.
Junior guard, Collin Gillespie, leads all Wildcats in scoring, averaging 15.3 points per game. Gillespie also leads the team in assists (5.8 APG) and steals (1.3 SPG). He is not only seeing an increase in his numbers this season but an increase in minutes as well. Through six contests Gillespie is averaging 30.5 minutes, three more minutes than last season. In Villanova’s last two games against Baylor and Missippi State, he played 37 minutes. Gillespie’s best game to date took place Sunday against Baylor, recording a season-high 27 points and adding five assists.
Gillespie is one of the stars of this team and will continue to be relied upon as the season progresses. He’s demonstrating the ability to take over games when necessary and has developed into a true leader on the court for the Wildcats.
Freshman forward, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, is making a great impression during his first season with the Wildcats. Robinson-Earl already has the trust of head coach, Jay Wright, averaging 31.8 minutes of playing time. In Sunday’s loss to Baylor, he logged a whopping 38 minutes on the court.
The 6-foot-9 big man is establishing himself as a presence down-low, leading the team in rebounding. Robinson-Earl is averaging 9.8 rebounds a game, reaching double-digits in that category four times already. In regards to scoring, the forward is making an impact there as well. He is posting 13.8 points per game, scoring over 20 against Missippi State and Army.
Robinson-Earl is exactly the kind of player Villanova needs. Yes, his point production is beneficial. However, his real value comes in his ability to secure rebounds. Having someone capable of providing the Wildcats with second-chance opportunities opens up players such as Gillespie to take more three-point chances.
Saddiq Bey, a sophomore forward, is experiencing some substantial growth in his development early this season. Bey is averaging similar minutes to last season (29.5 MPG) but has seen a serious increase in his point production. He is posting 13.7 points a contest, five more points than last season. Bey provides a lot of promise to this Villanova roster and it will be interesting to see what he accomplishes throughout the season.
The Month Ahead
The Villanova Wildcats have six games on tap for the month of December. They will spend a lot of time at home, hosting La Salle, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Kansas, and Xavier. Villanova will take to the road to face Saint Joseph’s for their only road game of the month. The most notable games for the Wildcats in December are against nationally-ranked Kansas and Xavier.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
John Gove covers prospects within the Philadelphia Flyers farm system for Philly Sports Network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnPGove.