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Scouting the Villanova Wildcats

Welcome to "Scouting the Big East," a preview series that will give an in-depth look at each of the 2014-15 Big East Men's Basketball teams. Next up, the Villanova Wildcats.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Team Name: Villanova Wildcats

2013-14 Record: 29-5 (16-2 Big East)

After beginning the season unranked and being picked to finish fourth in the conference preseason coaches poll, Villanova would come out of the gate strong last season, winning 16 of their first 17 games.

After taking down then-2nd-ranked Kansas and 23rd-ranked Iowa in back-to-back games, the Wildcats would catapult into the top 25, a place where they would remain for the rest of the season.

Their winning ways would continue well into Big East play, as they lost just two games throughout conference play, and were challenged only by Creighton for the regular season conference title, which they would eventually win.

But postseason play would be a different story for Villanova after they were inexcusably upset by a lowly Seton Hall team in the first round of the Big East Tournament, before falling as a two-seed to the eventual-champion Connecticut Huskies in the NCAA third round.

Key Losses:

F James Bell (14.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG), G Tony Chennault (2.7 PPG, 1.8 APG)

The Wildcats lost their leading scorer, forward James Bell, to graduation in the offseason. Bell was also tied with JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu for the team lead in rebounding last year, and finished second on the team in minutes with just under 30 per game.

esides the huge loss of Bell, Villanova really did not lose much this offseason. Their only other player from 2013-14 to average over 10 minutes per game who they lost to graduation was guard Tony Chennault, who averaged just under three points per game.

Key Recruits:

G Phil Booth (Baltimore, MD), F Mikal Bridges (Malvern, PA)

With few recruiting slots open, head coach Jay Wright appeared to go for quality over quantity on the recruiting trail for this season.

He picked up just two recruits to add to his roster in 2014-15, but each of them were rated as ESPN Top 100 talents in guard Phil Booth and forward Mikal Bridges. Booth should bring an instant spark to the Wildcat bench this season, possessing a good blend of outside shooting along with being able to attack the hoop.

He was also given an opportunity to show a lot to the Villanova coaching staff over the summer while normal starter Ryan Arcidiacono was playing with the Italian national team, and Jay Wright and his coaches have liked what they've seen so far.

Bridges should also bring some strength to the bench in 2014-15, being described by Wright as a someone who "plays bigger than his size, and (is) pretty long and pretty athletic." It should be interesting to see how these two additions will fit into the Wildcat offense going forward.

Key Players Returning:

G Darrun Hilliard (14.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG), F JayVaughn Pinkston (14.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG), G Ryan Arcidiacono (9.9 PPG, 3.5 APG), F Josh Hart (7.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG), F Daniel Ochefu (5.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG)

Villanova brings back four of their five starters and seven of their top eight leading scorers from last season. Redshirt senior forward JayVaughn Pinkston and senior guard Darrun Hilliard each enter their final season of eligibility for the Wildcats as two central pieces to the team's success.

Pinkston was a preseason first team All-Big East selection this past month, while Hilliard and Arcidiacono each were selected to the conference's second team.

Forwards Josh Hart and Daniel Ochefu will also return this season, with each of them being expected to crack the Wildcats starting lineup on opening night, while guard Dylan Ennis and forward Kris Jenkins should also see a good amount of playing time.

Returning Minutes, Points, Rebounds:




Key Non-Conference Opponents:

VCU (11/24), Michigan/Oregon (11/25), Illinois (12/9), Syracuse (12/20)

The Wildcats will participate in the Progressive Legends Classic at the Barclays Center this November, taking on a fellow preseason top 25 team in VCU before a possible matchup with either Michigan or Oregon, each of whom should be ranked in or around the top 25.

They'll also return to New York City when they take on Illinois at Madison Square Garden in the beginning of December.

Near the end of non-conference play, Vilanova will also resume their rivalry with Syracuse once again. The Orange beat Villanova in the Carrier Dome last season in a matchup of unbeatens, but the Wildcats will have a shot to avenge their loss at home this year.

Most Intriguing Conference Matchup:

@Georgetown (1/19)

These original Big East rivals will first square off towards the end of January in the Verizon Center in a game that will likely feature two of the conference's top teams.

With both of these rivals likely in the nation's top 25 at this point, this should be one of the Big East's marquee games this season.

This will be the Wildcats' first chance to assert their dominance over the rest of the Big East this season, and while they ran away with the conference title last year, the rest of the conference will be making sure to do everything that they can to prevent that from happening again.

Scouting Villanova

Projected Big East Finish: 1st

Projected Overall Finish: NCAA Tournament Appearance

They may not dominate the Big East as much as they did in the regular season last year, but overall Villanova is still the best team in the conference.

As they return four of their five starters from a 29-win team last season, and add two top recruits, it's not hard to see why many are projecting this team to be one of the nation's 15 best in 2014-15.

Overall, expect a stellar regular season from this team almost without a doubt, but their real focus this year will be on finishing strong in both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments, outcomes which have eluded them in recent year's past.