Villanova held its Blue-and-White basketball scrimmage on Saturday.
A few observations:
1. The Finneran Pavilion, which Villanova would like to be known as the Finn, feels shiny and new. That's a compliment. More people won't get in, and access to games for younger alumni is a story for another day, but if you're in there, you'll know you're there for Villanova basketball. The walk down memory lane in the new front indoor plaza is well done. You can also buy your T-shirt right inside the front door.
Smartest move: Moving the students into different sections, so noise comes from different directions. Jay Wright made a point several times of exhorting the whole crowd to start standing up and get loud for introductions, etc., that the new place should be the most difficult place to play in college basketball.
"The new Finn is not a wine and cheese crowd,'' Wright said.
Funniest Twitter response: "They literally just added a wine bar."
Runner-up: "It's a whine and cheese crowd."
2. Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, or Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, will be the one of the stronger combos in college hoops. Booth seemed to go anywhere he wanted, creating for himself and teammates. Paschall was a handful inside and out. Yes, Villanova will be younger, but those two are pretty nice build-around guys.
3. Third best player on the court? I'd go with Collin Gillespie. He didn't heat up until late in the scrimmage, but Gillespie knew just what he was doing at both ends. It's crazy to think the sophomore guard began his senior season at Archbishop Wood with no Division I offers.
4. Biggest jump? Jermaine Samuels, easily. Before the scrimmage, I made the mistake of wondering out loud whether there would be extended minutes for Samuels this season. The sophomore forward, kind of a ninth man last season, answered that question quickly, with rebounds, active hands, smart decisions, talking on "D", a couple of confident three-pointers. If that's the way Samuels looks all the time, you have to believe Wright will find him minutes.
5. Let's slow down … on thinking Joe Cremo can just be inserted for Donte DiVincenzo. The graduate transfer from Albany is a shooter, but he'd mentioned as practice began that he's more than just a shooter. This team he's joined, however, needs him as a shooter. He should begin there. Wright mentioned afterward that he wasn't talking to his guys a lot during the scrimmage, as his assistants coached the two teams, but said he did yell at Cremo to shoot a couple of times. That's how he'll get his minutes. The rest can flow from there.
6. The freshmen didn't look lost on defense. It will be interesting to see how Wright distributes minutes with Saddiq Bey, Brandon Slater, and Cole Swider all looking capable of helping on offense and not killing the Wildcats defensively. It's already a given that point guard Jahvon Quinerly will get a lot of minutes. Quinerly wasn't hot from the outside, but he knows how to get into the lane and create offense. Wright said there absolutely will be times he plays Quinerly, Booth and Gillespie together.
Afterward, Wright made an interesting point: that some of the younger guys could have lesser roles than vets right now, but eventually surpass them. That makes sense, to let their experience catch up to their talent. Right away, the experience will come from Booth, Paschall, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree inside and Gillespie outside, the guys who played in last season's NCAA title game. Everyone else might have to earn his minutes day to day, just as Samuels seemed to do Saturday.