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Jensen: Villanova unveils banner, explains why Kris Jenkins didn't start an exhibition game

Call it the last ceremony. The lights went out Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, eyes were directed to the rafters where one new banner had the year 1985 on it. A spotlight shown on a second banner, unveiled to commemorate the 2016 men's basketball national champions.

Call it the last ceremony. The lights went out Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, eyes were directed to the rafters where one new banner had the year 1985 on it. A spotlight shown on a second banner, unveiled to commemorate the 2016 men's basketball national champions.

Jay Wright had grabbed the microphone. Villanova's coach talked about a great challenge his team has had since the spring, "to represent Villanova University and all of college basketball . . . and still prepare for this season, a new year."

Wright's big message to a fan base that filled in the lower level and stayed afterward for autographs: "We want you to keep celebrating the national championship for another 31 years - keep celebrating." His team just needs to put it aside. "We have to do that," Wright said. "You don't."

On the court, Villanova, which opens Friday against Lafayette at the Pavilion, did not look ready to take steps back. You will recognize this group. They full-court pressed Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania and trapped in the halfcourt - working on that more than they will use it in a Big East game, Wright said.

The Wildcats hit 17 three-pointers, with four different players hitting at least three, and Fordham transfer Eric Paschall, who comes in to play the low post, hitting both three-pointers he tried in scoring 18 points.

Josh Hart rose above the whole thing, scoring 27 points in 30 minutes. Mikal Bridges got a start and had 17 points. Same old thing, and don't assume it was all because of the opponent. IUP had given Syracuse a legit game. They didn't play scared. Final score, Villanova 94, IUP 49.

The reason that NCAA title game hero Kris Jenkins didn't start isn't big as much as it is telling.

Villanova counts calories and pounds closely and Wright explained that Jenkins' weight was up a couple of pounds one day this week from what the team's metrics said it should be based on calories consumed and burned off.

"He actually made it on the day, he didn't make it on the time," Wright said. "He thought he was getting weighed after practice. It's not that big of a deal but we said it, so you have to do it. We're not mad at him. We're not punishing him. But I understand what it looks like from the outside. He's not in trouble."

The point, Wright had said, is that those calories must have been picked up away from team meals. Yes, Wright acknowledged, Jenkins could burn it off quickly running in sweat gear, but the coach said that isn't the way to do it.

"It's WAY down," Wright said of Jenkins' overall weight.

Since the end of last season, Jenkins said, he's lost about 15 pounds.

"For me, to give myself a chance to be the best player I can be, a couple more to go," Jenkins said. "Nothing too crazy."

In the past, Wright said, they wouldn't have explained this publicly, except simply saying maybe a violation of team rules has invited wild speculation. Wright said he told Jenkins this, too.

It also refines the message that last season is over.

"It's more of a consistent message," Wright said. "There are just certain little things - we call them breakthroughs. Something is difficult for Kris, his challenge with weight, is easy for Mikal. But there's something for Mikal that he's got to work on that might be easy for Kris. We always talk about this as a team. It's not a big deal for us, Kris not starting. But it's consistent, everyone's got their own personal challenges and they have to attack them."

Other than pointing out sportswriters probably don't burn off enough calories to even write about this team, it's more telling about how seriously these top-level college teams are taking sports science.

"It's one of those things, it is what it is," Jenkins said. "I have high standards for myself. Still working to get there."

Still hard to get past the thought that since the hero of the national title game didn't start, whether intentional or not, that's a message.

"It's just a standard we have for me and I'm going to get there," Jenkins said. "I'm going to be ready to go next week."

He already was, sitting 236 seconds at the start of the game, immediately looking as comfortable as the rest when he got in there, after they had dimmed the spotlight from the banner in the rafters.

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus