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Villanova’s weaknesses there all along; all-freshman team | City 6 observations

And what were those bobbleheads Drexel gave away this weekend?

Villanova coach Jay Wright
Villanova coach Jay WrightRead moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

City 6 observations, Vol. 15.

Can’t speed them up

After his team lost its third straight Sunday at Xavier, Jay Wright might have delivered the crystallizing quote of the 2018-19 Villanova season, talking about when his team couldn’t make a shot and Xavier went on a run, hitting shots and getting big offensive rebounds.

“We just didn’t have the speed and athleticism to go after them and speed them up,’’ Wright told the Inquirer’s Joe Juliano.

That’s it. That’s the story. Villanova has fine players. Villanova has tough players. Villanova has smart players. What Villanova does not have is the kind of NBA athleticism at all positions that defined its recent teams, that caused runs in game after game, while usually controlling the tempo of games.

Yes, Villanova has looked tired lately. Yes, the load has been huge all season for Eric Paschall and Phil Booth. But the rest of the regulars haven’t played badly at all.

Don’t knock them. If you thought this group could make a Final Four run, that’s on you. Truth is, the 10-0 start in the Big East was the equivalent of a Final Four run for these Wildcats. Beyond impressive. So they’ve lately reverted to the mean, in addition to being tired and on the road.

Going with a slightly smaller lineup worked for a bit until opponents adjusted. Going smaller hasn’t meant going quicker. Which means you’re just smaller, and opponents can deal with that.

So this is a eulogy for Villanova? No, no, no. If Paschall and Booth are hitting a fair number of shots and Collin Gillespie or Saddiq Bey heats up, too, the Wildcats won’t be a fun team to play in March. They probably won’t be a fun team for Marquette to play Wednesday night.

Also, to those who think Wright should have played his freshmen more, I strongly disagree. Those guys weren’t ready for bigger roles. Check their stats. Check their advanced stats. Believe your eyes. If the Wildcats were trying to play at a hot pace, maybe you’d have a point. They weren’t. They don’t. They can’t.

Best bobblehead

Drexel gave one away this weekend for Calvin Hicks. If you’ve ever attended a Drexel game, you know.

Does the bobblehead shout “Defense!” morning, noon and night?

Random obvious thought

Like many of you, I don’t want to see sub-.500 conference teams in the NCAA Tournaments. I don’t care if they win a tournament game to “justify” their selection. Means nothing. Good wins shouldn’t be enough. Count the losses.

What are the odds?

It’s not that Temple lost to Villanova and Penn, but how Temple lost to Villanova and Penn. The longer the season goes, the stranger it seems.

Jermaine Samuels, a 30 percent three-point shooter, hit 3 of 3 threes for Villanova against Temple. How many other times this season has Samuels hit three three-pointers? That would be none. He took three or more three-pointers in eight other games, made 8 of 28. He took exactly three threes in three other games, and shot 1 for 9 in those three games. Yes, Temple left him open. But that wasn’t a crazy bet.

Even crazier was how Penn’s Kuba Mijakowski did in the Owls, making 4 of 6 threes, scoring 14 points in 20 minutes. How many other times has the Penn junior played at least 20 minutes this season? That would be none. Mijakowski played 12 minutes in Penn’s next game against St. Joe’s, made 1 of 5 shots. Since, he has played a total of 14 minutes in Penn’s eight Ivy League games. He made 1 of 4 shots in the first one at Cornell. He has played five minutes since then, hasn’t taken a shot.

He wins the Ty Shine award. (Sorry to bring that up, Owls fans. I was there.)

All-City 6 freshman team

I’ll go with five guys, plus a freshman of the year. Some of this is easy. La Salle’s Ed Croswell? Easy. He still leads Division I in offensive rebounding percentage. His increased minutes have reflected it.

Drexel’s Cam Wynter? Easy. Any freshman who has at least five assists in 15 games … that’s easy. And leads his team in minutes? Easy. Throw in a double-digit scoring average and 4.5 rebounds a game. Very easy.

Both of them got real consideration for City 6 freshman of the year.

Penn had two freshmen who seemed like strong candidates for freshman of the year at different points. Michael Wang came out of the gate fast, looking like the best stretch four in the city, any class. Penn couldn’t have beaten Villanova without him. Bryce Washington made the loss of leading scorer Ryan Betley to injury a little easier to take by shouldering a big scoring load at shooting guard.

However, both have seen their minutes cut in Ivy play as scouting reports caught on to what they bring to a game. Both are still worthy of this team and clearly have big futures, but have not risen above the rest of the newcomers.

That leaves two players: Saddiq Bey at Villanova and Jared Bynum at St. Joe’s.

Bynum has similar efficiency numbers to Drexel’s Wynter, with a similar big workload, leading the Hawks in scoring, averaging more than 11 points, and tops in assists. A great first step got Bynum to a lot of places he wanted to go.

If the Hawks had gotten to where they wanted to go, he might have been the overall top choice. But for freshman of the year, we’re going with Bey.

No, he didn’t have to carry Villanova, but you didn’t have to watch the inside-out forward for very long to see his value: doing all sorts of little things, getting a hand on an offensive rebound to keep a play alive, or a hand in a passing lane, causing a steal. Bey could score inside, and has hit threes at a 37 percent clip. His overall offensive efficiency numbers were easily the best of this group. We liked his defensive efforts, too. He’s the pick.

Next week, the overall all-City 6 team.