Villanova’s men’s basketball team’s schedule is packed with highlights, and things will get off to an exciting start right away.
The Wildcats open up their quest to a fourth national championship with the 2K Empire Classic. The Classic will consist of a four-team tournament including Villanova, Boston College, Baylor and Arizona State.
Villanova will open up its season against Boston College. Last season, the Eagles finished with a 7-13 record, placing 12th in the ACC, falling in front of only Pitt, Wake Forest and an injury-riddled North Carolina team. Boston College has never been known for its basketball program, traditionally being regarded as a “football school.”
Ever since the departure of guard Ky Bowman, who now plays for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, Boston College has had even less of an overall impact in the ACC, with powerhouses such Duke, UNC, Virginia and more. BC shouldn’t be a problem for the ’Cats.
On the other side of the bracket, there are Baylor (AP #2) and ASU (AP #18). While ASU is expected to make a big jump this year with the addition of top three ESPN recruit freshman Josh Christopher, Baylor is an easy favorite. Its ascending guard duo of Jared Butler and MaCio Teague, combined with momentum and motivation from last year, will allow the team to open up its season with a victory.
With the likely final matchup being Villanova against Baylor, it is important to acknowledge the tone that will be set from the result of this matchup. This year is competitive, and the national title conversation is about as crowded as it can possibly get.
Superstar freshman Jalen Suggs and the Gonzaga Bulldogs are looking to reach the finals for the first time since 2017, and head coach Mark Few will use his dynamic playstyle to get there by any means.
Virginia, still defending champions believe it or not, is looking to come right back to the top spot it left off at.
Several Big Ten programs, Wisconsin with D’Mitrik Trice, Iowa with Luka Garza and Illinois with Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu, are all in the top ten and are looking to reach the final four with confidence. As per usual, Duke and Kentucky are lurking.
Immediately, the loser of this potential battle between Villanova and Baylor will be set back in the conversation and will need work to climb back in.
Even though it is an early game, watch out for the two dynamic, diverse and experienced rosters to put on a Game of the Year Candidate.
There are going to be two things to watch for. First is guard play. Will Collin Gillespie’s size up with Butler and Teague be enough of an advantage to shoot over them consistently? Can Butler and Teague’s defensive presence be enough to hinder a younger guard like Justin Moore with less experience?
The other thing to look out for is big man play. How will freshman Dain Dainja handle the overall size, broadness and elusiveness of Villanova forward Jeremiah Robinson Earl?