After being picked to finish fourth in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, the Villanova Wildcats have surprised many with a 13-1 start to the season. Now as the consensus top team in the Big East, the No. 8 Wildcats will have a target on their back against any team down the road.
Villanova has put together such an impressive start to the season because its sum is greater than its parts. Head coach Jay Wright has done a terrific job of putting his players in situations where they can use their strengths while at the same time maintaining an unbreakable team chemistry.
That being said, the performances of the Wildcats have led to the team's success, including big wins against Kansas, Iowa and Butler.
These semester grades are based on each individual's play this season compared to what was expected of him. For example, even though Ryan Arcidiacono is putting more stats on the board than Kris Jenkins, much more was expected of Arcidiacono, which might land him a lower grade.
Without further ado, here are the semester grades for some of the contributing Villanova Wildcat.
Stats: 30.6 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 3.1 APG, .380 FG%
By far the biggest disappointment of the Villanova season, Arcidiacono has regressed from his freshman year, which saw him score almost 12 points per game.
While he averages the most minutes per game on the team this year, he's only fourth in scoring. On top of that, his field-goal percentage is second worst on the team among players who receive significant minutes.
Known as a deadly three-point shooter, Arcidiacono is shooting a putrid 26 percent from deep. Another discouraging stat about his shooting comes from the free-throw line. Whereas he sank 82 percent of his freebies last year, the sophomore from Langhorne, Pennsylvania has dropped to 72 percent from the line this season.
The silver lining of his season came during the Battle for Atlantis Tournament. He hit the game-winning three, which was his only field goal against No. 2 Kansas. Then he hit four threes the next night in the championship game against Iowa.
Villanova is going to need Arcidiacono to improve his game during Big East play if it wishes to compete for a national championship.
Stats: 28.1 MPG, 14.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, .424 FG%
As one of the most valuable players on the team this year, James Bell has been a huge reason for Villanova's success. The senior from Orlando has made strides each of his four seasons, but none of them has been as big as his junior-to-senior transition.
He has averaged close to six points and two rebounds higher than in his junior campaign while playing the same number of minutes. He has also gotten to the line more often this season in addition to improving his percentage from 74 to 81 percent.
He is often regarded as one of the team's premier defenders, but his greatest asset may be his deep ball threat. He is a solid 35 percent from behind the line, after making four threes against Iowa and six in his best game of the year against Syracuse.
Villanova has a true system player in Bell, and his improvement throughout his four years shows his great development.
Stats: 16.4 MPG, 2.9 PPG, 2.8 APG, .407 FG%
The senior transfer from Philadelphia has not enjoyed the success he anticipated when coming over from Wake Forest two years ago. Being benched last year in favor of a freshman coming off back surgery, Chennault has fallen to third in the point guard depth chart this year behind Dylan Ennis.
He is averaging the least amount of minutes per game in his career, which has hurt all his major stats.
He has not scored more than six points in any game, although he did have a solid five-point contribution recently against Providence.
If he wants to add some minutes and finish his collegiate career on a high note, he needs to improve his playmaking ability as a point guard.
Stats: 19.8 MPG, 8.7 PPG, 2.3 APG, .433 FG%
After missing every game up until the Battle for Atlantis Tournament with a broken hand, Dylan Ennis has proved to be an important part of the deep Villanova bench. Averaging almost 20 minutes per game, he has taken over Chennault's role as the primary backup point guard.
The transfer out of Rice proved to be an immediate success in his first game as a Wildcat, scoring 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting against USC. He proceeded to duplicate that performance the next night against Kansas.
The older brother of Syracuse's star freshman Tyler Ennis, Dylan has not dropped off at all in production despite not playing collegiate basketball since the 2011-2012 season. He has improved his free-throw shooting to 78 percent this year while cutting down his turnovers to 0.6 per game.
As a backup, Ennis has fit into Jay Wright's system and has been a key contributor to the team's success.
Stats: 22.1 MPG, 9.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, .571 FG%
As Villanova's most productive freshman, Josh Hart has quickly solidified himself as a critical player within the rotation. As the team's fourth leading scorer, he uses his length and athleticism to get to the basket and create easy opportunities.
His main scoring threat comes from his three-point shooting ability. As Nova's leading three-point shooter at nearly 50 percent, Hart must be guarded all over the court due to his ability to hurt a defense in a variety of ways.
In the Battle for Atlantis championship game against Iowa, he contributed 14 points and five rebounds.
While he could improve his free-throw shooting from 60 percent, Hart has started his Villanova career off right with an impressive rookie campaign.
Stats: 28.7 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 3.1 APG, .488 FG%
Known as a big-game player due to his performances against Louisville and Syracuse last year, Villanova's third leading scorer has picked up from his improved sophomore year. Darrun Hilliard continues to be a multi-dimensional threat for the Wildcats, knocking down threes and playing lockdown defense.
Starting every game this year, he has become a reliable scorer, often getting called for isolation plays at the end of each half. The junior's improved 38 percent three-point shooting suggests that he has been working hard to become the team's premier shooter.
Hilliard's best game of the year came against cross-town rival La Salle, when he chipped in 21 points along with four steals.
As the heart of the Big East schedule approaches, Hilliard will be called upon to step up in big games.
Stats: 12.4 MPG, 4.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, .333 FG%
Kris Jenkins has put together an average rookie campaign as part of such a deep Villanova team this year.
The freshman out of Gonzaga College High School has received a decent amount of playing time this year, but he has not been flashy enough to stay in the main rotation.
Jenkins has attempted 2.5 three-pointers per game, making a decent 34 percent of them. The quickest way for him to add to his minutes would be to improve his shot and become a consistent deep-ball threat.
Listed at 6"6" and 255 lb, he is one of Villanova's biggest bodies, which may prove useful, given that sophomore Daniel Ochefu is the Wildcats' only true big man this year.
Stats: 18.9 MPG, 4.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, .468 FG%
As Villanova's lone center, Ochefu has a lot on his plate for the Wildcats this year. Known to be a defensive specialist, he still has a lot left to be desired regarding his post moves and offensive game.
On the defensive side of the floor, he has posted an impressive 1.8 blocks per game, leading the team. He has improved across the board from his freshman campaign but is still not putting together the season that Coach Wright might have anticipated.
Ochefu put together his best game of the year in the overtime win against Butler on New Year's Eve, posting eight points and two blocks.
If he could improve his free-throw shooting from 52 percent and lower his foul rate of 3.2 fouls per contest, he would receive a more significant role within the rotation.
Stats: 27.2 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, .521 FG%
Villanova's best and most consistent player, JayVaughn Pinkston has taken over as the primary force in the paint this season. Converting more than half of his shots, he is the go-to player when a big play is needed.
His greatest offensive skill is his ability to draw fouls and shoot free throws. Continuing where he left off last year, Pinkston is averaging 6.9 trips to the line each game, converting 77 percent of the.
Against St. Joseph's in the Holy War, Pinkston scored a season high 27 points while also grabbing eight boards. He also scored 22 against Butler as the key contributor toward the team's first Big East win of the year.
Villanova will be relying on its best player to use his size and athleticism to attack the rim and draw contact.