VILLANOVA, Pa. – For the second year in a row the Villanova Wildcats will begin the BIG EAST portion of their regular season campaign against the DePaul Blue Demons. This time the venue will be the new Wintrust Arena in downtown Chicago as the Wildcats and Blue Demons meet 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
The game will air nationally on the CBS Sports Network with Jamie Horowitz, former Villanova head coach Steve Lappas and Jenny Dell describing the action. Ryan Fannon and Whitey Rigsby will be on the radio call at 610 Sports Radio in the Delaware Valley.
On Monday, the Wildcats remained atop this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. It is their third straight week there and 13th week that they have been in that position over the past three seasons.
The Wildcats ventured through the pre-BIG EAST portion of their 2017-18 schedule with a 12-0 mark. They defeated Hofstra 95-71 in a non-conference clash Friday night at NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.
Yet head coach Jay Wright sees areas where the Wildcats will need to make strides as they step into a BIG EAST Conference race with three other teams ranked in the AP Top 25, including No. 6 Xavier, No. 23 Creighton and No. 25 Seton Hall.
“We need to get our depth going,” stated Wright, who enters the game Wednesday with 398 victories in a Villanova tenure that began in 2001. “We need to get Jermaine Samuels going and get Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree more experience. We need to get more games for Omari Spellman, just to get him playing in games.
“When you get to be as experienced as some of our (veterans) have, you can kind of sense they’re waiting for Big East time. But what’s special about these guys is they do a great job of bringing it every day. Guys like Omari, Dhamir and Jermaine, though, they needs games like the ones in November and early December. Even for Donte DiVincenzo, it’s been a good thing.”
After a November spent shaking off the rust from an academic redshirt season a year ago, Spellman has stepped forward in a large way in the month of December. He is 28-of-42 (.667) from the field in a five game stretch where he has averaged 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per contest. He is also 12-of-17 from beyond the 3-point arc in that span (.706).
Cosby-Roundtree, meanwhile, logged 15 minutes in the win over the Pride, contributing six points and two rebounds while Samuels saw 11 minutes of game action on Long Island. The importance of those two has only grown in the absence of their classmate, Collin Gillespie, who remains sidelined indefinitely with a broken bone in his left hand suffered in practice prior to the La Salle game on Dec. 10.
The Wildcats have won seven of their last eight BIG EAST regular season openers, including last year’s pulsating 68-65 triumph over the Blue Demons. Josh Hart sank the game-winning basket in the final minute after DePaul rallied to pull even late in the second half at the Pavilion.
Villanova is in the midst of a stretch where it will play one home game in 37 days. Following Wednesday night’s action it is slated to travel directly to Indianapolis Thursday, where it will get set to meet Butler Saturday afternoon in a game to be televised nationally on CBS.
The 2017-18 Villanova Basketball season is presented by KeyBank.