No. 1 ranked Villanova was dealt a fairly significant blow on Wednesday, as the program announced that Phil Booth -- the Wildcats' fourth-leading scorer -- is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a fractured bone in his right shooting hand during Tuesday's game against Providence.
Simply based on Booth's role with the team this season, it's easy to downplay the overall impact his injury might have. He's not a leader in any statistical category for Villanova, nor is he totally irreplaceable on a team equipped to adequately back-fill his position with talent. Freshman big man Omari Spellman, for instance, doesn't score as much as Booth, but he's a much more important weapon as the team's best rebounder and rim protector.
But for any team to lose a starter averaging double figures is a crushing blow, even the No. 1 team in the country. That's only exacerbated by the fact that through 20 games, only six Wildcats players, Booth among them, are averaging more than 20 minutes of action per contest this season -- and only one other, No. 3 big man Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, has played in important games.
Villanova is a great, bordering on elite, team this season. But it is not a deep team. Losing Booth indefinitely to injury could create a domino effect that alters how the final months of the season unfold. When you're only relying on an eight-man rotation, losing a go-to scorer playing nearly 30 minutes per game will inevitably sting.
In Booth's absence and recovery, Donte DiVincenzo is the most likely to see an even larger usage rate on the wing. A 49.5 percent shooter from the floor and 43.1 percent shooter from beyond the arc, he's a valuable asset in the rotation who should be in line for a run as the starter. Collin Gillespie, a talented freshman who hasn't played in close games, will also see his role elevated moving forward.
Gillespie is an intriguing bit player who could play an important role despite his youth. He fits the identity of Villanova this season, too, as he is one of six Wildcats players, along with DiVencenzo, who is shooting above 40 percent from the 3-point line this season. What he lacks for is Booth's big-game experience -- the fourth-year junior scored 20 points as the surprise star of the 2016 national title game.
At 19-1, thus far the only force that's been able to stop Villanova is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.back in December. Now it seems that with injuries coming into play, there's a noticeable crack in the Wildcats' near-unbreakable armor that could potentially shake up the race to land a