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Starting Five: Villanova's slow start, big decisions coming

Is it too early to be concerned about defending national champion Villanova's slow start? There are a pair of big-time commitments coming this week and more in Eric Bossi's Starting Five.

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Jay Wright
Jay Wright (AP)

Look, it was a pretty rough one for Jay Wright and Villanova. First the Wildcats were blasted by Michigan in a Final Four rematch and then they were taken out in overtime by Furman and both losses came at home.

No, this isn't ideal and it's certainly worth a bit of an eyebrow raise. But, let's not forget that the Wildcats just lost four players to the NBA Draft and didn't have a ton of returning players who have played important minutes outside of senior starters Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. Compounding things is that both of those guys have struggled to shoot the ball.

The Wildcats do have a total of six freshmen and sophomores who were ranked as four-star prospects coming out of high school, though. So far those six players -- Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Jermaine Samuels, Saddiq Bey, Jahvon Quinerly, Cole Swider and Brandon Slater -- are only averaging about 25 points per game and have registered a pair of DNP coaches decision.

Villanova has hung its hat on getting guys to buy in and developing talent. Let's see what happens once it gets a chance to develop some of these guys and have this conversation again sometime in January.


News that James Wiseman will announce on Tuesday shook things up a bit for the the last few days of the early signing period. But there should be at least two other big decisions going down this week. Five-star swingman C.J. Walker will get things done on Wednesday while top 40 big man Zeke Nnaji is set to decide on Friday.

Down to LSU, Miami and Oregon, Walker created a little bit of a stir last week when those from his inner circle put out that he would wait until the spring to decide and sign. Within a few days, they had reversed field and Walker made it clear that he would announce before the end of the period. As of a few weeks ago Walker looked to be all but a done deal for the Hurricanes and if I had to pick, I would probably still give them the slightest of edges over LSU and I expect the decision to come down to those two.

Nnaji is fresh off of an unofficial visit to North Carolina -- which his father Apham Nnaji discussed with TarHeelIllustrated -- and is going to decide among the Heels, Arizona, Baylor, Kansas, Purdue and UCLA. Prior to Carolina getting added to his list after Nnaji had finished his official visits, Kansas and Purdue had been getting the most buzz. There was also early Arizona buzz when he set his, at the time, final five. UNC was cautious to move on Nnaji late because it didn't want to be used as window dressing and it appears to have a very legitimate shot here. The question is can it make up enough ground in just a few weeks to trump relationships that others have built over the last six to nine months? To me, this one is still too close to call based on the available on and off the record information.


As we reach the midway point of the early signing period, it has been a relatively drama free one. Could there be some drama brewing because Jalen Lecque has yet to sign with N.C. State and Mark "Rocket" Watts hasn't put ink to paper for Michigan State? I don't think so, at least not based on anything I've heard.

I'll start with Watts. I've not heard anything to suggest that there are any kind of second thoughts. If there were rumors of him being not ready to sign, they would be circulating rapidly by now. So, if I were a Spartan fan I wouldn't be getting worried just yet. If it gets to Tuesday and we still haven't heard anything, then I would start to wonder. For now, though, there shouldn't be any concern regarding Watts. At least there isn't anything circulating on the recruiting grapevine.

As for Lecque, it's not a surprise that he hasn't signed yet. On signing day, Jason Smith, who coaches Lecque at Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy, told us that Lecque wouldn't sign until at least a bit into the period. Lecque wanted to go home for Thanksgiving break and the plan is that if he's going to sign, he'll sign with his family.

As of now, I would expect him to sign but if he doesn't I don't see another program being the competition. The competition is the NBA Draft with which Lecque is flirting. Since last spring he has acknowledged that part of the attraction of taking a prep year and being a 2019 recruit was that he would be draft eligible. He's an NBA athlete for sure and teams are watching, but he's got a lot of work left to make himself a lock to get picked. He should still be Raleigh-bound.


The Wisconsin Badgers got on the board in the class of 2020 with point guard Lorne Bowman from St. Mary's in Michigan.

Bowman is not a player that I have seen a ton of, but I have seen enough to have an idea why the Badgers felt he was worth locking up early and he looks like he has the potential to be a nice early pickup.

Bowman is a long-armed, relatively strong guard who plays at his own pace and can run as either a point or shooting guard. I like his ability to finish rough contact, his length and the way he uses change of pace and hesitation moves to be elusive via the dribble.

The 2020 class looks like it could be a little thin when it comes to the point guard position, so anybody who feels good about a floor general in that class who is ready to decide should be pouncing on them. The Badgers got their guy and I'll be looking forward to getting a better look at him.


Everybody loves talking freshmen this time of year. For the casual fans, these first few games are an introduction and for diehards it's finally getting to see if rankings translate to college and debate who got over- or under-ranked. The bottom line is that discussion of first year players is frequent and usually spirited.

So my question is, why the heck isn't UCLA's Moses Brown getting more talk?

I get it. He's playing on the West Coast and UCLA hasn't faced a murderer's row. Still, the 7-footer, who was a five-star prospect in high school, is averaging a pretty impressive 19.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game while shooting a whopping 83.3 percent from the field. I don't care who you play, that is putting in some serious work and deserves a bit of praise.

I don't expect Presbyterian to be able to slow him down too much on Monday night, but I'll be real curious to see how he does against Michigan State's front line on Thursday. If he plays anything like he has so far when he faces the Spartans, then look for the Brown hype train to begin.