If the Villanova Wildcats want to return to the AP Top-25 rankings next week, win another Big East tournament championship, and make another deep run in the NCAA tournament, they will need a third scoring option outside of seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall.
This glaring issue reared its ugly head in the Wildcats’ recent three-game road trip, where they lost all three contests by a combined 30 points. The last time Villanova lost three consecutive games was in the 2012-13 season, where they accomplished the feat two times.
During that season, Villanova lost to the Louisville Cardinals, 77-54 in the Big East quarterfinals and then followed it up with a seven-point loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
This year’s Wildcats are hoping to not repeat what their predecessors did six years ago. But if Villanova cannot give Booth and Paschall any support in the scoring department, then they may suffer the same fate.
In their last three games, both Booth and Paschall are averaging 14.6 and 17.6 points respectively. However, while they have been consistent, finding that third scoring option has not.
In last Sunday’s game against Xavier, frosh Saddiq Bey had 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field and eight rebounds. He by himself had outscored the Nova bench, which only had seven total points.
Then against Georgetown last Wednesday, Bey had a solid all-around performance with nine points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. Sophomore Collin Gillespie chipped in with 13 points but shot 2-of-6 from three-point range. Nova’s bench also went cold in this game, scoring only nine points.
However, a couple of Sundays ago against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, the Wildcats received 26 points from the bench squad with Cremo scoring 14 points. The starting lineup did not show up to play, as Booth and Paschall could not find the rhythm from three-point range, shooting a combined 1-of-13.
In addition to their three-point shooting woes, Gillespie was held scoreless, but Bey stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists.
With all that being said, could Bey be that missing third scoring option for the Wildcats? It is a possibility. Out of all the freshmen that head coach Jay Wright brought in this season, Bey has shown to be the readiest to produce.
This season, the Maryland native is averaging 8.4 points and 5.4 points in 28.9 minutes per game. He is also shooting 45.5-percent from the field and 37.1-percent from the field.
Even though his scoring average is not impressive, the 6-foot-8 forward has scored at least 10 points three times in Nova’s last five games. That is important, especially when Gillespie is struggling to score.
In conjunction with finding a third scoring option, the Wildcats need to get better production from their bench. Over the last three seasons, Wright always had a reliable sixth man that he could lean on.
Last season, it was Donte DiVincenzo, who lit up the Michigan Wolverines in the National Championship game for 31 points and parlayed that performance into a first-round selection in last summer’s NBA draft.
Then a couple of seasons ago, it was Booth, who scored 20 points to help the Wildcats defeat the Tar Heels in a compelling National Championship game. Can Cremo, the graduate transfer from Albany, be this season’s DiVincenzo? Maybe, but it is hard to trust a player, who is only averaging 4.9 points per game.
The reigning national champions have a couple of tough questions to answer before the regular season wraps up. Whatever the answers are to those questions will have a direct effect on how far the Wildcats go in both the Big East and NCAA tournament.
Luckily, they can give us an immediate answer on Wednesday night, when they take on the No. 10 ranked Marquette Golden Eagles at the newly refurbished Pavilion.