Chris Arcidiacono proving his value for Villanova
“Ryan's better,” St. Joseph's students slow-chanted. "I do hear it," Chris said. He has played the fourth-highest total of minutes on 'Nova's team so far this season.
Late in the second half of the Villanova-St. Joseph’s game, a text came in.
“Slowly … becoming a Chris Arch guy”
The texter has seen a lot of Villanova basketball games.
I texted back: ”Welcome”
I don’t know if I qualify as a Chris Arcidiacono “guy,” but I’ve certainly seen his value in key spots for Villanova over recent seasons, and think he deserves a little more affection from ‘Nova’s own fan base. I didn’t have him playing the fourth-highest total of minutes on ‘Nova’s team so far this season. But I also didn’t have Arcidiacono with the highest KenPom.com offensive rating so far among Villanova’s top 2022-23 regulars while also being one of his team’s better perimeter defenders.
» READ MORE: Villanova win's at St. Joseph's
That brings us to a chicken/egg question.
Would Chris Arch have as high a rating, thus bringing more value to his team, if he shot a little more, or would his value decrease?
Evidence provided Saturday on Hawk Hill says maybe just a little more would bring a little more. Obviously, the evidence gets skewed a bit when you take three three-pointers and make them all … but when one of those threes is a late dagger during a close game, that’s a piece of evidence, too.
When nobody on either team forces as many fouls as the seven Chris Arch forced from St. Joe’s during Villanova’s 71-64 victory … evidence.
Four assists with zero turnovers … more evidence.
‘He’s a gamer’
Brandon Williams doesn’t need any evidence. The Philly Pride travel-team coach has always been a Chris Arch guy.
“He’s a gamer in a winner’s body,” Williams messaged after the St. Joe’s game.
The rest of what Williams messaged gives more insight into this player’s ‘Nova career: “He’ll never try to do more than what he’s asked to do, but he’ll never shy away from a big moment. And his intangibles …”
Williams listed heart, leadership, and love for the game.
“... never leave his side.”
The St. Joe’s game hit a sweet spot in terms of Arch contributions. There were times early in the season as ‘Nova struggled when maybe the 6-foot-4 senior passed up looks that were worth taking … He has taken only eight two-point shots all season, made only two. If those are the instructions, fine. But you want defenses worrying about all of your offensive players, and if they don’t have to worry about Arcidiacono from certain spots on the floor, that can be an issue.
Let’s get to another bottom line: This game indicated that Villanova needs him. Arch’s turnover rate is second to Eric Dixon among the ‘Nova regulars. As new players are assimilated into the offense, that steady hand shouldn’t be dismissed, whatever his minutes.
Also, that three-pointer from up top for a 66-57 lead with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left after a crucial Caleb Daniels offensive rebound isn’t the first big shot Arcidiacono has hit in his career. He took only one shot last season in a jump ball of a game with Seton Hall, a similar deal to this, after a scramble and a pass out. Swish.
Arcidiacono said himself that the last few of those seven forced fouls came when St. Joe’s had to foul late. True, but the other ones, he legit forced with his own body control, in a game when such things mattered, since this afternoon was no E-ZPass ride to a 6-5 record.
Afterward, it seemed obvious which players Villanova would bring into the postgame news conference. Brandon Slater had made a career-high five three-pointers to lead ‘Nova with 19 points. Eric Dixon had 16 points and 12 rebounds, but that’s what the Wildcats have come to expect from their big man. Chris Arch’s 14 points … Let’s guess he’d walk into the press room with Slater. He did.
“I just got done telling our staff — he’s been terrific,” St. Joe’s coach Billy Lange said in his own presser just before, although his own guard, sophomore Erik Reynolds, had been the star of the game, with 27 points. “This is not [an] accident. He’s had a great career here. Part of that is, he’s grown up under leadership and guidance from guys like Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels and it passes on down the line.”
Part of it was hit on by the St. Joe’s student section. In case you didn’t know, Chris has an older brother named Ryan, who did a thing or two at Villanova, including in the last 4.7 seconds of the 2016 NCAA title game. Lange also mentioned, “Great family, he’s got great pedigree.”
Ignoring the chants
Fast forward to Chris at the foul line a number of times late in Saturday’s game, facing the St. Joe’s student section as he shot.
“Ryan’s better,” the Hawks fans slow-chanted.
That in itself was kind of funny since the average St. Joe’s student was 12 or 13 years old when Ryan Arch finished his great ‘Nova career with that famous pass to Kris Jenkins.
Hey, Ryan was better than 99 percent of the players that have ever put on a uniform at any Big 5 school. Deciding on ‘Nova, Chris knew such chants would be baked into his career. They’d be a good thing, since it would mean he’d be on the court. He didn’t hesitate to sign on.
“I think that’s who he’s been all season,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said Saturday when asked about Arcidiacono being a steadying influence on this game. “His entire career, he knows exactly what we do here. He was literally born into it. He knows exactly what we expect from him and he always comes out and tries to execute.”
It wouldn’t be a shock to see his minutes come down if Justin Moore is on the court later in the season. Maybe Arch takes a backseat again, who knows. Also, the continuing maturation of freshman guard Mark Armstrong is important for Villanova. This game, ‘Nova’s three big-time freshmen — Armstrong, Cam Whitmore, and Brendan Hausen — combined for only 10 points. The vets took charge of this one.
Did Chris hear the chants?
“Yeah, I heard it, but I just focus on the game,” Arcidiacono said. “I’ve been dealing with that for forever. … The team helped me out with that, and I think I did a good job, too.”
He was stone-faced out there … no salute to the SJU students after made free throws.
“I’m just so locked into the game — but I do hear it,” Arcidiacono said.
Quieting the crowd. Does that motivate him?
“No, anything that motivates me comes from the game,” Arch said. “I try not to worry about anything on the outside. You’re going to have outside noises and forces coming at you in every single game at every arena.”
The ball in his hands …
“Nothing new,” he said.
Maybe the only questionable decision Arcidiacono made was at the very end. He had an open layup, 15 seconds left. He pulled it back out, got fouled two seconds later, made one of two free throws for the final point of the game. Not a crazy play, done for the right reasons — selfless in fact, trying to burn off seconds. The risk-reward just might have been better taking the shot. By now, Chris Arch has earned the right to take the shot.