Big East Regular Season Champions. 24 Wins. AP Top 10 ranked team in the nation. What could have been for the 2020 Villanova Wildcats, a team poised to run the March gauntlet and potentially snatch its third national title in five years, remains in question. Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing cancellation of the NCAA tournament, no college team will be achieving the ultimate victory this season. It is still important, however, to take a look back at some of the incredible moments of this year’s Wildcat team, as well as the incredible players that brought those moments to fruition.
Villanova’s freshmen stars shined especially brightly this year. Freshman Justin Moore brought some much needed guard play beside junior Collin Gillepsie, contributing 11 points and 2 assists per game with a sprinkling of 15+ point performances towards the end of the season. Furthermore, freshman forward Jerimiah Robinson-Earl dominated the paint all year long, averaging a near double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds per game. Perhaps the Wildcat’s greatest breakout star, though, proved to be sophomore forward Saddiq Bey, who tallied a team-high 16 points per game while shooting at a 45% clip from three-point range. Playmaking forwards such as Jermaine Samuels, Cole Swider, Brandon Slater and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree were essential to the team’s overall success, all confident and talented enough to step up whenever their names were called.
After reviewing the guys that made these plays possible, these were the top five defining moments of this Villanova men’s basketball season.
#5: Gillespie’s 29-point Performance to Rout Big 5 Rival Temple
The Wildcats dominated Big 5 competition this season, going a perfect 4-0 and winning each game by double digits. Gillespie's performance perfectly captures this dominance, as the guard erupted for a season-high 29 points in the 76-56 victory, draining 7-11 from deep. This win clinched the Big 5 title for the ‘Cats for the sixth time in seven years, further cementing Villanova as Philly’s premier basketball program.
#4: Narrow Victory Against No. 8 Seton Hall to Spoil Outright Title
A classic late-season clash between two titans of the Big East. Bey, Samuels, and Moore combined for 58 points in a contest in which the eighth-ranked Pirates trailed the entire second half. The Wildcat victory denied Seton Hall sole possession of the Big East regular season title, laying the groundwork for a possible three-way tie atop the conference.
#3: 1-Point Victory in Season Finale Against Georgetown to Clinch Big East Championship
Hey look, a three-way tie! The Wildcats ended the game on a 5-0 run in the final minute to pull out a miraculous comeback at the Capital One Arena, clinching the regular season conference title after a season riddled with intense Big East showdowns. Robinson-Earl capped off his tremendous freshman campaign with the finishing blow, forcing a turnover and hitting the layup and-one with mere seconds left on the clock. This final victory would position Villanova as the two-seed in the Big East tournament, sitting behind only Creighton.
#2: Saddiq Bey’s Ridiculous 33-point Barrage at Wells Fargo Center
This game showcased one of the most efficient individual shooting performances of the year. Scoring 33 points on just 15 shots, including eight for 10 from deep, Bey pulled up from anywhere and everywhere as he torched the Hoya defense at the Wells Fargo Center. These eight threes tied the all-time Villanova record for most threes in a single game, and the sophomore’s 33 points also tied his own personal career high. Games such as this one perfectly demonstrate how Bey is rapidly growing into one of the nation’s top tier college basketball athletes.
#1: Samuels Nails a Clutch Three to Topple No. 1 Kansas
Insanely close game resulting in a one point victory? Check. Clutch shot in the final seconds? Check. Knocking off the nation’s #1 squad in wild upset fashion? Oh yeah, that’s a check too. Undoubtedly the pinnacle of Villanova’s season, the Wildcats defeated the No.1 Jayhawks in a heart-pounding instant-classic, providing the Nova Nation with a nice little Christmas present leading into the holiday season. Jermaine Samuels led the way for the Wildcats with 15 points, including a dagger three-pointer to clinch the 56-55 victory. The game was easily the greatest moment of the season as it proved that the 2020 Wildcats were capable of beating any team in the country.
While this basketball season didn't end the way that the Nova Nation (or anyone else) wished it had, these moments will only give us momentum leading into next year. There is no doubt that next year around this time, the Wildcats will be cutting down the nets and gearing up to once again claim its throne in the Big Dance. In fact, guess who’s already #1 in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early top 25 teams for next season? That’s right. Go Cats.