By Lewis Gould

Villanova’s football season hasn’t even begun yet, but Sports Illustrated is looking past that to what is really the Big Cat sport, by asking:

Is Jalen Brunson ready to step into Josh Hart’s vacated leadership role?

Brunson, a rising junior who averaged 14.7 points last season, is the lone remaining starter from the national championship team of two years ago.

With both Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins having graduated this past spring, it’s Brunson’s time to be the team’s leader and grizzled veteran.

The point guard will have help in that department from classmates Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall, and the return of a healthy Phil Booth will be a boost, but make no mistake—this is Brunson’s team.

Losing a player of Hart’s caliber is undoubtedly significant, and the Wildcats tended to rely on him late in close games.

Will Brunson become that late-game answer, either as a go-to scorer or a playmaker?

Villanova has what it takes to compete for a second national title in three years, but it needs a big year from its point guard.