Kyle Neptune Provides Spring Update


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

Kyle Neptune provided updates on the Wildcats just one month post their NIT loss.

Colin Beazley, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Villanova’s men’s basketball season ended with a first-round NIT loss on a Tuesday night in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Villanova’s offseason? Kyle Neptune is still waiting for it.

Neptune and his staff have been constantly working ever since the season ended. In the current age of college basketball, coaches must simultaneously look for talent in the transfer portal, while doing all they can to keep their own players — a never-ending multi-tasking of recruiting and re-recruiting. Villanova looked to solve this problem by hiring former assistant Baker Dunleavy as its General Manager of Basketball, where he will help both the men’s and women’s programs with the portal, NIL, fundraising and more.

Because of this difficult schedule, Neptune says that he has not had time to reflect on his first season as head coach. However, he has thought about how his team performed, looking back on missed opportunities but acknowledging the challenges of the season.

“Our goal is always to be the best team we can be by the end [of the season],” Neptune said, “And I thought that we were trending towards that way.”

The Wildcats finished, 17-17, the team’s worst record since 2011-2012. They showed an inability for much of the year to win close games, and struggled with injuries throughout the year, most notably to senior guard Justin Moore and freshman forward Cam Whitmore.

At one point, the Wildcats had a 5-12 record in games decided by 10 points or fewer. Once Moore returned, Villanova won six of its final eight regular season games but limped into the NIT and lost to Liberty.

“I don’t know if you ever are going to be satisfied with results unless you win your last game,” Neptune said. “It just comes down to just growing as a team, and I was proud that our guys stayed together and continued to grow throughout the season.”

Villanova knew it would need to replace two of its top five scorers, graduate students Caleb Daniels and Brandon Slater, after the season, but it was dealt an added challenge when a third, Whitmore, declared for the 2023 NBA Draft. However, the Wildcats are keeping Moore, who elected to use his additional year of eligibility to return for a fifth season.

“It’s a great feeling [to have him back],” Neptune said. “[He’s] obviously one of the best players in the country. He’s been a leader in our program for a good amount of time now and brings a lot of experience, a lot of talent, a lot of versatility to your lineup. So [I’m] very happy to have him back.”

Neptune added that he expects senior guard Chris Arcidiacono to take a fifth season of eligibility as well.

With the three departures, a fourth from Angelo Brizzi’s midseason departure and an unused slot last year, the Wildcats have five open scholarships for the 2023-24 season. The first was taken by 2023 recruit Jordann Dumont, a Canadian wing who committed in November.

The second spot was filled on Friday, when Villanova added senior guard TJ Bamba, a transfer from Washington State. The All-Pac-12 honorable mention led the Cougars with 15-scored over 15 points per game  and will likely take Caleb Daniels’ role next year.

With that, Neptune and the team have three more spots to fill. One option is with the Class of 2023, as four-star forward Brady Dunlap is still uncommitted. Dunlap, who had committed to Notre Dame before head coach Mike Brey’s retirement, was reportedly on campus recently and has Villanova in his final five schools.

However, the most likely tool is the portal. The Wildcats will target at least two wings/forwards as replacements for Slater and Whitmore, and they desperately need depth, as well. There’s a Hunter Dickinson-sized whale in the portal that Villanova would love to have, and apparently, the interest is mutual. Dickinson will visit Villanova on Friday, April 28, to see whether he’d be interested in reuniting with his high school teammate Moore. However, Dickinson is also being heavily recruited by bluebloods Kansas and Kentucky.

An option that Villanova has been heavily linked to is Maryland’s Hakim Hart. Hart, who went to Roman Catholic in Philadelphia, has been a three-year Terrapin starter and averaged 11.4 points in his senior year for the Terps. He has interest from Kansas and Gonzaga as well, but visited Villanova over the weekend.

Although rosters are still being assembled, coaching changes and early transfers mean that the Big East will be more competitive than ever next season.

“You go up and down the entire league, you got great coaches, great players, got great fan bases, got great institutions,” Neptune said. “I think our league has just gotten better and better since I’ve been in it. I think it’s rapidly being known as one of the premier basketball leagues in the country.”

While his job is getting harder, the Big East is improving and his roster is far from complete, Neptune is cautiously optimistic.

“I’ve learned pretty quickly here over my few years of being a head coach that you’re not going to be able to control everything,” Neptune said. “We’ll go back to just trying to be the best team we can be by the end of the season.

“No matter what the factors are, hopefully they’re all in our favor.”