When Villanova lost to Furman in overtime last month, most reacted with minimal concern.
I’s Jay Wright, after all — he has won two of the past three national championships. He always seems to figure things out.
Two years ago, he lost key players from his 2016 title team, but the Wildcats still managed to win 32 games the following season. The Wildcats started this season as a top-10 team, despite losing three first-round picks and Jalen Brunson, the Wooden Award winner. But Wright’s facing a difficult task.
This isn’t the 2016-17 team.
That squad had Josh Hart, an All-American and first-round pick, but these Wildcats lack a similar offensive catalyst to bail them out when their offense stalls. They made just 38 percent of their shots inside the arc in a 27-point loss to Michigan. Only one player, Eric Paschall, recorded double figures, and he went 3-for-14 that night. In their overtime loss to Furman, the Wildcats made just 37 percent of their shots inside the arc.
They’ve also squandered key possessions. They’re ranked 250th in turnover rate; they were 14th last season. Last season’s team had multiple, reliable ball handlers.
This year, however, five-star freshman Jahvon Quinerly hasn’t found a spot in the rotation after committing 10 turnovers in just 61 minutes this season. The team as a whole is committing turnovers about once every four trips up the floor, which hasn’t happened at Villanova since the 2012-13 season.
After five consecutive years playing top-15 defense, the Wildcats entered the week hovering around the low 50s. Villanova has been praised for its consistency. Wright is a Hall of Fame coach. But last season’s group was special and stacked with NBA talent. Yes, he can still lead this team to a Big East championship. But there are no guarantees: Wright might not be able to fix some of this team’s glaring issues as it tries to defend its national title.