Most of the anticipation for Villanova's new season is focused on how quickly the Wildcats' four freshmen will learn in time for the start of the season in two weeks, and later for the kickoff of the Big East season on Jan. 2.
But the major experience drain with the loss of four players from the 2018 national championship team means that the Wildcats' four sophomores – Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Jermaine Samuels and Dylan Painter – have to accelerate their maturation process.
Coach Jay Wright, speaking at the Wildcats' media day, said his team is making good progress, that he liked "the way the young guys are picking things up," and the leadership of seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. He said the members of the sophomore class are "kind of the X-factors."
"The guys in the middle, like Jermaine, Collin, Dhamir, and Dylan, they're the guys that are getting pushed ahead," he said. "If we still had Omari [Spellman] and Donte [DiVincenzo], we could be a little patient with them."
Spellman and DiVincenzo joined Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges as declaring for the NBA draft after the national championship game. Spellman played one season with the Wildcats and DiVincenzo, the most outstanding player of the Final Four, competed for two seasons. Each sat out a year as a redshirt.
Gillespie, who missed time last season with a broken left wrist, is fine with the added emphasis with the sophomores.
"Definitely, you always want to get better whether you're a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior," said the former Archbishop Wood High School star. "You don't want to get complacent with your game. You never want to keep your game at the same level. You always want to continue to get better in different aspects of the game."
Gillespie said he and Cosby-Roundtree, a former Neumann-Goretti High standout, worked out constantly together on campus during the summer.
Asked about whether he's come up with a starting lineup yet, Wright mentioned Booth, Paschall, and Gillespie, and said the other spots "are really open."
"I think we're going to have depth, but that could be a good thing or a bad thing," he said. "Depth could be bad because no one's really distinguishing themselves, and it could be a good thing if a couple of guys do distinguish themselves and then the other guys are getting better.
"We're not at the point where I know that yet, but I think it's going to be what November and December are going to be about for us: If we can get some guys to step up and distinguish themselves, and then have good depth below that."
The Wildcats will begin the season Nov. 6 against Morgan State in the grand reopening of the renovated and renamed Finneran Pavilion.