Men’s basketball non-conference schedule preview



Larry Flynn

Last year, around early November, fans and analysts raved about Villanova’s non-conference schedule. The Wildcats would have the opportunity to compete against the storied Michigan Wolverines, and would battle a former Big East foe, the Syracuse Orange. 

In theory, the Wildcats were preparing to play a more difficult non-conference slate in order to bolster their competition and prepare them better for March. 

In reality, Michigan and Syracuse flopped, both missing the tournament and leaving Villanova with an incredibly weak non-conference schedule last season.

This season, again, fans and the team are excited to play against top teams in both the Big 12 and the ACC. 

Will the Wildcats finally get the challenge they’ve been waiting for? Both Oklahoma and Virginia will pose the largest threats, while the Wildcats should remain undefeated in the Big Five and the NIT Season Tip-Off.




Perhaps the toughest non-conference opponent will be Oklahoma, a veteran-laden, high-octane, offensive-minded team. The Sooners have cracked 90 points in each of their games thus far, and have showcased the same energetic offense as last year.

For the Sooners, it’s all about Buddy Hield, the Big 12 preseason player of the year. As a junior, Hield averaged 17.4 points per game and dominated smaller wing defenders with his length, quickness, and creativity. 

Oklahoma should be even better this season. Hield is now a senior, along with his running mate Isaiah Cousins, and the team only lost one starter. 

Shutting down Oklahoma could be Villanova’s toughest task all season long. It is imperative that the Wildcats keep their focus and discipline on defense, as Daniel Ochefu discussed in preseason workouts and media day.

Villanova has shown tremendous defensive potential thus far this season, utilizing the length and athleticism of bench players Mikal Bridges, Darryl Reynolds, and Donte Divencenzo to maintain both a man and zone full-court press.

Against the Sooners, however, the Wildcats must control the tempo and slow the game down. Villanova’s defense must dictate Oklahoma’s offense, not the other way around. 

This will be a fantastic early-season test for the Wildcats, who will face off against a similar Providence Friars team twice during conference play.




If Oklahoma is a test of Villanova’s defense, the Virginia is a test of the Wildcats’ offense. Known for their plodding, methodical approach, the Cavaliers are just a year removed from featuring the stingiest defense in all of college basketball. 

Virginia makes defense fun to watch. Their rotations and help defense are consistent and precise. They contest all shot attempts, but aren’t overly aggressive. Tony Bennett has masterfully gotten his players to buy into this defensive-minded system.

In one of college basketball’s biggest upsets thus far, Virginia lost to George Washington on Monday. This isn’t good news for Villanova; Virginia will certainly move down in the polls and may not be the same basketball team after losing star Justin Anderson to the NBA draft. 

Still, Virginia will likely remain in the top 25 for most of the season. A win against the Cavaliers would mean a victory for the Big East over an ACC opponent

Regardless, the Wildcats will have to show their offensive potential against a stingy defense. Perhaps this will be the game where Jalen Brunson takes over the reins of the offense and shows he can be the next Scotty Reynolds or Randy Foye.


Big Five


Every year, Villanova plays against local Philadelphia opponents: Temple, St. Joe’s, Penn and LaSalle. 

This season, Penn and LaSalle should pose no threats to Villanova. St. Joe’s has a chance to be competitive in this year’s “Holy War,” led by NBA prospect DeAndre Bembry.

It’s Temple, however, which may cause the most problems for the Wildcats. Nestled in conference schedule, an away visit to take on the Owls means more this season than it has in years past.

The Brunson family ties to Temple are still strong to this day. Jalen’s father, Rick Brunson, played at Temple before enjoying a solid NBA career. Jalen, however, decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps after considering Temple in his recruiting search. Brunson’s decision should cause some hatred and hostility from Temple fans.

Furthermore, the Owls are a talented basketball team. After beating Kansas, Temple sat on the bubble toward the end of the season. They ended up falling just short of a bid in the NCAA Tournament, but were arguably one of the biggest snubs by the selection committee last season. 

Although they lost leading scorer Will Cummings, Temple will return most of its rotation this season and should be hungry to avenge its missed opportunity last season. 


NIT Season Tip-Off


Last year, this tournament would have been elite. Led by SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis and Michael Quallis, the Arkansas Razorbacks were one of the nastiest, toughest teams in college basketball. Chasson Randle led the attack for the NIT Champion Stanford Cardinals last season. 

This season, however, these two programs will be in rebuilding years and should be easy wins for the Wildcats. Villanova will begin by facing Arkansas, then taking on the winner of Stanford and Georgia Tech. 

While the competition will likely be mediocre, the Wildcats will have some practice playing under the bright lights at the Barclay’s Center. 

Has Villanova finally found a difficult non-conference schedule that will prepare them for March? It’s hard to imagine both Virginia and Oklahoma experiencing a seismic collapse like both Michigan and Syracuse did last season. Hopefully, this is the year ’Nova will be well-prepared for March.