Villanova is officially the uh-oh team to start college basketball's 2018-19 season.
The Nova result comes three days removed from what was then considered the most shocking result of this young season: Michigan. Villanova has gone from consensus preseason top 10 team to a squad that's susceptible to getting booted out of the polls altogether come Monday.at the hands of
It's been a long time since Villanova was considered this beatable. Losing four players to the NBA can do that to you, though. (More on that below.)
The loss to Furman was bad enough, but consider the shock to the senses this is for Jay Wright, Villanova's program and its fans: in the previous five seasons, it took Villanova, on average, 18 games before it was handed a second defeat. This season took four.
At 2-2, Villanova's in need of an emergency examination of its woes.
Three Things to Know
1. Furman is in the midst of an incredible eight-day span, maybe the best in America
Nov. 9: Furman, which opened its season against Bob Jones University, begins its season in earnest by playing at Final Four darlings, Loyola-Chicago. It wins the game. But not only wins -- it finds sweet victory right before the buzzer by way of a facial slam, courtesy of Clay Mounce.
Nov. 13: The Paladins escape at home, in OT, against Gardner-Webb and win 88-86. This is the first of three games in a five-night span for Furman. Remarkably, it's the program's first overtime win since 2011. And the one before that came in 2007. That's nuts.
Nov. 15: Furman junior guard Jordan Lyons ties an NCAA record -- that was also tied the night before by a player from Robert Morris -- by making 15 3-pointers in one game. The most recent example of this, prior to Lyons and Robert Morris' Josh Williams doing it on consecutive nights, came in 1996. But the record comes with a caveat: both players did it against non-Division I competition. Lyons' career night gets done against North Greenville.
Nov. 17: The Paladins beat a second team from last season's Final Four -- and do it on the road. A rare achievement. (Kansas and Michigan are not on the schedule, in case you're curious.) It's safe to say that only a handful of teams have started the first 11 days of the season as impressively and unexpectedly as Bob Richey's Paladins, who last began a season 5-0 in 1987.
"We're going to keep this thing loose," Richey said after the game, on Fox Sports 2, of his team's preparation. "We did not practice yesterday. We literally did not practice. We walked through at the hotel, and it was about trusting our guys and getting them fresh and knowing we belonged in this environment. And, man, did they."
2. Villanova was unpredictably overvalued heading into the season
It's strange to see the Wildcats so out of sorts. For the second straight game, VU shot below its expectations from beyond the arc. Against Michigan, the Wildcats were a miserable 3-of-15 from deep (20 percent). On Saturday, many more 3s but still not as good as it's been on average in recent seasons: 14-of-44 (31.8 percent).
Villanova made 464 3-pointers last season. That averaged to 11.6 per game. It set the Division I single-season record. When I spoke with Jay Wright in the preseason, he said the 3-ball attack was absolutely still going to be the wind in this team's sails. It hasn't been so far, though. And because of Villanova's skittish guard play and lack of interior dominance, the 3-point shooting has suffered.
That needs to get fixed rapidly in order for opposing teams to respect the talent VU still clearly has.
3. Villanova's hyped freshman haul is not ready for the big stage
One notable name missing from Saturday's tilt: Villanova freshman Jahvon Quinerly, a former five-star point guard in the class of 2018, did not log a minute.
Against Michigan he played just eight minutes. He's yet to be on the floor for more than 18 minutes in a game this season. One of the best recruiting classes in Villanova history is not off to an impressive start. That's putting more pressure on the the two big returners -- Eric Paschall and Phil Booth -- who obviously can't do it by themselves.
All this leads to an obvious point that must be stated again nonetheless. Wright did not expect to lose Donte DiVincenzo last spring. No way, no how. And he really wasn't thinking Omari Spellman would parlay his redshirt freshman season into becoming a draft pick. But both those guys left. And it's clear that Villanova has been thrown into an unexpected quasi rebuild.
We love November college hoops in no small way because of how it can blow up our preconceived notions on ranked teams. Villanova's been the most disappointing of any to this point.