A Look Back at the 2018 Villanova Wildcats Rotation


Courtesy of Margaret Mengel

A Look Back at the 2018 Villanova Wildcats Rotation

Mike Keeley

This year’s Wildcats completed one of the great March Madness runs of all time, winning their six games on the road to the championship by an average margin of 17.7 points. In order to find this level of success, Villanova found production from both well-known sources and from positive surprises. Now that the season has ended, this is how each rotation player performed this season.

F Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree #21

Freshman, 6-9/220lb

With the redshirting of sophomore Dylan Painter this season, the Wildcats looked to be majorly understaffed in the frontcourt with no obvious backup behind fellow freshman Omari Spellman. Then slowly but surely, in came Cosby-Roundtree, gaining Wildcats head coach Jay Wright’s trust as the season went along. Although undersized for a five at only 220 pounds, a number he and the coaching staff will no doubt work on in the offseason, Wright used Cosby-Roundtree strategically in spots he could be effective, as well as when Spellman ran into foul trouble.

Top Performance: 3/25 vs. Texas Tech- 4 PTS, 7 RBDS, 5 O-RBDS, 1 BLK, 1 AST

Although this was not one of Cosby-Roundtree’s higher scoring performances this freshman season, there were points in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight victory over the Red Raiders where he took over the game with his work defensively and on the offensive boards.

Fun Fact: Won three straight PIAA  AAA state championships at Neumann-Goretti after transferring prior to his sophomore year of high school. 

G Collin Gillespie #2

Freshman, 6-3/190lb

The least heralded of Wright’s class of 2021, Gillespie came into his freshman year with few expectations placed upon him and faced with the stoutest competition for playing time amongst his fellow freshmen as a guard. Despite starting (and finishing) the year behind National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson, junior Phil Booth, and sophomore Donte Divincenzo, Gillespie found his niche in the Wildcats rotation as an in-case-of-emergency ball handler and impressive spot-up shooter. The most involved of the Wildcats’ true freshmen, Gillespie played at least 15 minutes 15 times.

Top Performance: 2/1 vs. Creighton- 8 PTS, 5 ASTS, 1 RBD

Gillespie scored double-digits multiple times for the Wildcats this season, but his five assists in a 98-78 win over Creighton contributed to what by far was his most well rounded performance.

Fun Fact: Named the Philadelphia Daily News’ 2017 Philadelphia Player of the Year while leading Archbishop Wood to a Philadelphia Catholic League title and PIAA AAAA state championship his senior year. 

Omari Spellman #14

Freshman, 6-9/260lb

The Wildcats’ first five-star recruit since Jalen Brunson, the anticipation of his debut only skyrocketed when he was forced to sit out the 2016-17 season due to academic ineligibility. After an inconsistent but often brilliant first half of his season, Spellman found another gear in the later stages of the regular season and conference play, scoring double digits in 14 of the Wildcats’ last 18 games, and quickly becoming one of the focal points of the Wildcats’ offense.

Top Performance: 2/4 vs. Seton Hall- 26 PTS, 11 RBDS, 3 BLKS

Spellman’s first and only 20 point double-double as a Wildcat, Spellman’s all-around performance against a top BIG EAST rival announced his arrival as one of the Wildcats’ stars.

Fun Fact: Outside of basketball, one of Spellman’s major passions in life is writing, and he often uses poetry to express himself. 

G Donte DiVincenzo #10

Sophomore, 6-5/200lb

In his second season playing the role of sixth man in the Wildcats’ rotation DiVincenzo showed improvement offensively and defensively, earning the title of the Wildcats’ sixth starter in the press while showing defensive versatility, often playing the three with two smaller guards. While he at points in the season went through stretches of turnover trouble, DiVincenzo provided a sparkplug off the bench on both sides of the ball while finishing the season third on the team in scoring and fourth in minutes played, and capped off his season winning Final Four MVP.

Top Performance: 4/2 vs. Michigan- 31 PTS, 5 RBDS, 3 ASTS, 2 BLKS

His career high in scoring as a Wildcat, DiVincenzo’s performance in the National Championship game was the prime factor in bringing a third title back to Villanova.

Fun Fact: Has carried the nickname “the Michael Jordan of Delaware” ever since Jay Wright saw him acting “like a superstar” in a practice and asked if that’s who he thought he was.

G Jalen Brunson #1

Junior, 6-2/199lb

Winner of the Naismith, Wooden, AP and other various National Player of the Year awards, Brunson earned all the accolades bestowed upon him. Leading the Wildcats in scoring and assists as well as being the most visible leader on a national champion, Brunson slowly but surely surpassed much-hyped and flashy freshmen such as Oklahoma guard Trae Young, Duke big-man Marvin Bagley III, and Arizona center Deandre Ayton. As Brunson most likely leaves the Wildcats for the NBA, he will leave behind a legacy as arguably the most decorated career of any Wildcat, with a pair of national championships, BIG EAST regular season championships and BIG EAST tournament championships to go along with his individual accomplishments.

Top Performance: 3/10 vs. Providence- 31 PTS, 6 RBDS, 4 ASTS, 1 STL

Pushed to overtime by virtue of the Friars’ ferocious defense, Brunson and fellow junior Mikal Bridges carried the Wildcats to another BIG EAST Tournament title and Brunson’s 31 points made up also 41% of the team’s offense. 

Fun Fact: Before playing nine seasons in the NBA Brunson’s father, Rick, played college basketball at Temple where Jalen was also at one point close to attending. In three career games against the Owls, Brunson averaged 23 points while shooting close to 70% from the field.

G Phil Booth #5

Junior, 6-3/185lb

Coming back from the major knee surgery that limited him to only three games last season and earned him a medical redshirt of his true junior season, the top scoring player in the 2016 national championship game served as a secondary scoring option behind fellow juniors Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. This luxury afforded Jay Wright uncommon offensive flexibility and despite often taking a backseat to those aforementioned two Booth still scored double digits in 17 games while missing a month to a broken hand. During this prolonged absence Booth’s value truly stood out, as the Wildcats lost as many games (two) in his seven games out of the lineup as they did in the 33 games he played. 

Top Performance: 1/10 vs. Xavier- 21 PTS, 4 ASTS, 4 STLS, 2 RBDS

A career high scoring performance on a night where he filled the box score, Booth helped the Wildcats open a sizable lead early and fueled them to an 89-65 statement win over the Musketeers on a night where they needed one, as this performance came after a shock loss to Butler and a game where they barely escaped with a win over Marquette.

Fun Fact: Will be returning to Villanova for a fifth year next season. After missing the majority of the 2016-2017 season with a knee injury, Booth received a medical redshirt which will enable him to play for the ‘Cats again next year.  

F Eric Paschall #4

Eric Paschall #4 Junior, 6-6/205lb

Assuming the responsibility of a mainstay in the Wildcats lineup for the first time since joining the program, Paschall in his increased playing time showed an efficient scoring game and a feel from deep to go along with his excellent defensive toolkit Wildcats fans didn’t see in his first year of action. Giving opponents a sixth weapon to have to game plan for, Paschall’s development on the offensive end was a key to the Wildcats’ second national championship in three seasons.

Top Performance: 3/31 vs. Kansas- 24 PTS, 3 ASTS, 3 RBDS

Unleashing the best scoring performance of his Villanova career and pinnacle of his offensive development in the Final Four, Paschall was the difference against Kansas. In the 95-79 blowout victory, the Dobbs Ferry, NY native was an overwhelmingly efficient 10-11 from the field and 4-5 from deep.

Fun Fact: Was recruited by Wright out of high school, but only arrived at Villanova after transferring from Fordham after his freshman season.

F Mikal Bridges #25

Junior, 6-7/191lb

A defensive role-player in his first two seasons on the Main Line, Bridges averaged double-digits in scoring for the first time this season, but that hardly tells the whole story. In the absence of former mainstays Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, Bridges saw his offensive production almost double to an incredibly efficient 17.7 points per game on 43.5% shooting from range. His ability to be a threat on and off the ball while also maintaining his defensive excellence made him into a nationally recognized star and likely lottery pick, an amazing achievement for anyone, especially a redshirt junior. 

Top Performance: 3/08 vs. Marquette- 25 PTS, 8 RBDS, 4 ASTS, 2 BLKS, 1 STL

Epitomizing his development as an all-around star, Bridges in the BIG EAST tournament semifinal shot 58% from the field while almost achieving a double-double and filling the stat-sheet.

Fun Fact: Bridges’ mom raised him as a single mother while taking classes and working multiple jobs and through that hard work has risen to the position to vice president of human resources for the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center. Bridges credits much of his attitude and work ethic that has helped him improve so drastically while at Villanova to the values she instilled in him.