Jay Wright (above) is trying to guide Villanova to its fifth-straight Big East championship. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2017-18 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 10. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season, click here.)
Here’s a look at the Wildcats’ schedule for 2017-18:
Villanova started last season 15-0 and won 30 games for the third year in a row. The Wildcats maneuvered through several challenges during the non-conference slate, picking up two marquee wins against Notre Dame and Purdue. Villanova then went on to roll through the Big East, going 15-3, improving their conference record to 63-9 since 2013-14.
The Wildcats will be tested early in the season. They return to the Battle 4 Atlantis for the first time since 2013, when Villanova won the tournament. The tournament field includes Arizona, which is one of the early favorites for top team in college basketball.
Villanova is once again the favorite to win the Big East, but Butler, Creighton, Xavier and others return plenty of talent to challenge the Wildcats for the league’s top spot.
Non-conference: Dec. 2-13 (@ Saint Joseph’s, Gonzaga, La Salle, @ Temple)
Villanova hasn’t lost a Big 5 game since December 2012, but Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Temple all bring back a ton of talent this season and should give the Wildcats a tough test if they don’t have their best game. In between the intra-city battles, the Wildcats will travel to Madison Square Garden to take on Gonzaga, last year’s NCAA runner-up.
Conference: Feb. 10-17 (Butler, @ Providence, @ Xavier)
All three of these teams made the NCAA tournament last season. Providence guard Rodney Bullock and Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett are two of the best guards in the Big East, and Butler gave Villanova two of its three conference losses last season. Late in the season, this stretch could be a defining moment for the Wildcats.
Opposing Players to See
1. Trevon Bluiett, G, Xavier
Bluiett is a two-time first team All-Big East selection. He became a star on the national stage when he averaged 21.3 points per game in Xavier’s four NCAA tournament games last season.
2. Marcus Foster, G, Creighton
In his first year for the Blue Jays after transferring from Kansas State, Foster immediately became one of the best players in the Big East. Foster averaged 18.2 points per game, which was third in the Big East behind Trevon Bluiett and Josh Hart.
3. Angel Delgado, F, Seton Hall
Delgado was the leading rebounder in Division I last season at 13.1 rebounds per game and also added 15.2 points per game. His bruising style inside the paint is fun to watch for fans of the former Big East.
Villanova and Gonzaga have been two of the top programs in the country in recent history. The first ever meeting between the two teams will be at Madison Square Garden.The Bulldogs advanced all the way to last year’s national championship game. While Zach Collins, Nigel Williams-Goss and Przemek Karnowski are gone, the Bulldogs have talent and experience returning in forward Johnathan Williams and guard Josh Perkins.
UConn vs. Villanova was a must-see game when these two teams were both still playing in the Big East. While the Huskies had a bit of a down year in 2016-17, they are loaded with talent and poised for a bounce-back year. The two teams haven’t met since the 2013-14 season. Villanova currently holds a 32-31 record in all-time meetings.
3. Battle 4 Atlantis
The Wildcats’ first game of the tournament would have been a bit more exciting had Mitchell Robinson not left Western Kentucky, but there are plenty of talented teams nonetheless. Villanova will play either Purdue or Tennessee in its second game and could potentially face Arizona in the championship. Southern Methodist, Northern Iowa and North Carolina State are also in the field.
Full Schedule (all times TBD unless otherwise mentioned)
* = Big East Conference game
# = Battle for Atlantis
Fri., Nov. 10 vs. Columbia (6:30 PM)
Tues., Nov. 14 vs. Nicholls State (6:30 PM)
Fri., Nov. 17 vs. Lafayette (Allentown, 8 PM)
#Wed., Nov. 22 vs. Western Kentucky (2:30 PM)
#Thurs., Nov. 23 vs. Tennessee/Purdue
Wed., Nov. 29 vs. Penn (7 PM)
Sat., Dec. 2 @ Saint Joseph’s (5:30 PM)
Tues., Dec. 5 vs. Gonzaga (New York, 7 PM)
Sun., Dec. 10 vs. La Salle (noon)
Wed., Dec. 13 @ Temple (7 PM)
Fri., Dec. 22 vs. Hofstra (Uniondale, N.Y, .8:30 PM)
*Wed., Dec. 27 @ DePaul (7:30 PM)
*Sat., Dec. 30 @ Butler (4 PM)
*Sat., Jan. 6 vs. Marquette (8 PM)
*Wed., Jan. 10 vs. Xavier (8 PM)
*Sat., Jan. 13 @ St. John’s (8 PM)
*Wed., Jan. 17 @ Georgetown (6:30 PM)
Sat., Jan. 20 @ Connecticut (noon)
*Tues., Jan. 23 vs. Providence (6:30 PM)
*Sun., Jan. 28 @ Marquette (1 PM)
*Thurs., Feb. 1 vs. Creighton (6:30 PM)
*Sun., Feb. 4 vs. Seton Hall (noon)
*Wed., Feb. 7 vs. St. John’s (7 PM)
*Sat., Feb. 10 vs. Butler (noon)
*Wed., Feb. 14 @ Providence (7 PM)
*Sat., Feb. 17 @ Xavier (4:30 PM)
*Wed., Feb. 21 vs. DePaul (8:30 PM)
*Sun., Feb. 24 @ Creighton (2:30 PM)
*Wed., Feb. 28 @ Seton Hall (8:30 PM)
Sat., March 3 vs. Georgetown (4:30 PM)