With Moore Out, It’s Time For Arch Madness


Courtesy of Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

With the Wildcats’ depth issues, Chris Arcidiacono will need to have an impact.

Colin Beazley, Co-Editor-in-Chief

NEW ORLEANS — When Collin Gillespie went down last season against Creighton, who stepped up for the Wildcats the rest of the way? Chris Arcidiacono. 

When Justin Moore couldn’t play against UConn earlier this season due to injury, who stepped up and played 25 minutes? Chris Arcidiacono.

Now that the Wildcats once again face crucial games without Moore, the lead up to Villanova’s Final Four matchup with Kansas has largely centered on one storyline – the Brian Antoine redemption arc. But is it time for Arcidiacono’s one shining moment?

He certainly isn’t predicting it.

“Really nothing changes,” Arcidiacono said of what he expects his role to be Saturday. “My role is I come off the bench, bring energy and just make sure we’re playing Villanova basketball for 40 minutes. So whenever I’m in, I’m going to help our team play Villanova basketball.”

The Arcidiacono name was written into Villanova lore when Chris’s older brother, Ryan, set up “The Shot” in 2016, when Kris Jenkins hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to deliver the Wildcats their first National Championship since 1985. In four years at Villanova, Ryan started all but one game, leading the Wildcats to a 117-27 record over his career. Ryan went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft yet briefly carved out a role in the pro game, starting 32 games for the Chicago Bulls in 2017-18.

Chris is not Ryan, nor has he ever claimed to be. Ryan was a four-star recruit out of Neshaminy, while Chris, a two-star, needed a post-grad year at Perkiomen to earn his Villanova offer. Ryan started the first game he played at Villanova, while Chris has had to work his way not into the starting lineup, but into the rotation at all, appearing in just eight games in his freshman year. Ryan cemented his family’s place in Villanova history, while Chris has to live with those heightened expectations. “I absolutely felt bad,’’ Ryan told The Athletic. “Not bad like you have to live up to me, but bad that he has to go through it.’’ 

Chris always took interest in Ryan’s early career, watching closely and consistently comparing himself to his brother. At the Arcidiacono family home, inside the laundry room, there are markings on the wall showing the heights of the six Arcidiacono children, and Chris would compare himself to where Ryan was at his age growing up. Chris consistently fell three inches short.  

During Ryan’s time at Neshaminy, Chris watched closely, taking the role of the team’s waterboy. Chris was there on the biggest day of Ryan’s Villanova career, watching from the stands in Houston as Ryan dribbled up the floor in the final seconds before giving the shot to Jenkins. Chris did everything he could to follow in his brother’s footsteps and attend Villanova, honing his skills in the driveway against Ryan, then in the NBA, and putting up statlines in high school worthy of Division One attention. Yet those looks didn’t come.

“It was kind of a situation where, for me, familiarity was actually a disadvantage for him,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said later. “We saw him all the time, and we knew every little thing about him. … If we were at an event anywhere, we’d always check him out because he was part of the family.”

Chris’s gamble of taking a post-grad year paid off, eventually earning the Villanova scholarship offer that he had dreamed of since childhood. Yet by choosing the same school as his older brother, Chris subjected himself to the same chants he had heard in high school: “You’re not Ryan.”

Chris’s time at Villanova would be entirely uneventful were it not for a four game stretch at the end of the 2020-2021 season, when he stepped into the Villanova starting lineup after injuries to Gillespie and Moore. After Gillespie’s season-ending injury against Creighton, Arcidiacono played 25 minutes off the bench in the final game of the regular season against Providence. Although he failed to score, missing all four of his shots, Arcidiacono played all 20 minutes of the second half, where the Wildcats nearly erased a 17-point halftime deficit by outscoring the Friars by 15.

After that performance, Arcidiacono was rewarded with his first start as a Wildcat, under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament. Although Villanova lost again, reeling after the loss of Gillespie, Arcidiacono was far from the reason why, nabbing five rebounds and adding four assists in 34 minutes. In the NCAA Tournament, Arcidiacono’s playing time decreased, yet when he played, he played well, turning the ball over just twice in 35 NCAA Tournament minutes. 

Arcidiacono’s postseason play earned him a spot in the rotation to start the year, but as the season progressed, Arcidiacono’s role regressed to the point where he has played over 10 minutes just once since Feb. 12, 20 minutes in a blowout at Butler. This drought comes after by far his best performance in a Villanova uniform, a Feb. 5 masterclass at the Wells Fargo Center against then No.17 UConn. Arcidiacono played 26 minutes in the game, scoring nine points on 2-2 shooting from the field, 1-1 from three, and 4-4 on free throws, adding two rebounds and an assist.

The game, played without Moore, allowed Arcidiacono a spotlight that should have allowed him more opportunities in the Wildcat rotation. Instead, after that performance, Arcidiacono was relegated to mop up duty. Arcidiacono played 11 minutes in a game against St. John’s the Wildcats dominated until the final five minutes and the 20 minutes against Butler, but his minutes in the final 13 games were as follows: 3, 2, 8, 6, 7, 20, 5, 6, 0, 9, 3, 1, 2.

Wright has always favored a short rotation, yet when the injury bug hits his team as it has recently, the Wildcat rotation is dangerously short. When freshman guard Jordan Longino went down with a knee injury before the NCAA Tournament, Wright’s seven-man rotation was stuck at six, and now that Moore has gone down Wright is stuck with five players who have played throughout the season. 

With Longino and Moore out, it’s time for Chris to make his own legacy, have his moment the way Ryan had his.

With Longino and Moore out, it’s time for Arch Madness.