Three-Point Play: Is Villanova college basketball's Clemson?
Is Villanova the basketball version of Clemson in football? In today’s Three-Point Play, national analyst Corey Evans looks at the Wildcats and their continued ascension among the elite. Also, another Pippen is making noise and the recruitment of Christian Brown picks up again.
The Tigers and the Wildcats
Dabo Swinney pulled off the unthinkable on Monday, giving Nick Saban his biggest defeat of his Alabama coaching tenure while catapulting Clemson in the conversation for the best program in America. Could we be seeing the same on the basketball side when talking about Villanova?
Villanova has already won two national titles within the past three years, just as Clemson has. Both schools also won a single national championship in the 1980s.
Sure, the Wildcats have taken a minor step back this season but it is pretty impressive that a dismal season in some eyes still equates to a potential Big East title, a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and a chance at another Final Four run.
This all brings us to the 2019 class that Villanova has put together. Each event I have covered in recent weeks, it is a Wildcats’ signee that is a standout.
At the City of Palms Classic, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl showed off a versatile game that will help Villanova's national title aspirations. After Christmas and at the John Wall Invitational, Bryan Antoine received MVP honors thanks to his sparkling play as a talented and athletic playmaker. Just this past weekend, Justin Moore scored a solid 29 points in his team’s win, reminiscent of a young Phil Booth. The lowest-rated 2019 signee, Eric Dixon, may be the sturdiest of them all.
With two national titles in three years and the best class Jay Wright has ever put together on the way, there is a nouveau riche feel to the Wildcats' program that certainly bears similarity to the football program in Clemson, S.C.
Another son of an NBA star gets noticed
We have shed the spotlight on a number of former NBA greats’ sons in recent years, whether it was an O’Neal, James or a Jordan. What about a Pippen? Scotty Pippen Jr., if you couldn’t tell, is the son of the former Chicago Bulls’ standout wing, and he is entering the final few weeks of his senior season. His recruitment has begun pick up steam.
While he wasn’t blessed with his father’s size or athleticism, he was given an uncanny ability to read plays as a point guard. His smarts are off of the charts and his progressions throughout the years are praise-worthy. A one-time fringe Divison I prospect, Pippen was a solid standout on the Nike EYBL circuit this summer and is the point guard of nationally ranked Sierra Canyon High School team this winter.
His recruitment failed to find much traction during the early going but that has changed in recent weeks. Pippen visited Vanderbilt and while there was a chance that he could come off of the board to the Commodores, thus becoming the replacement for potential one-and-done Darius Garland, he instead decided to hold off. Bryce Drew’s program is in the driver’s seat still, but others including New Mexico, St. Mary’s, UCSB and Washington State, are involved, too, as is DePaul. Wouldn’t that be a fun storyline? Another Pippen making noise in the Windy City?
Either way, the Pippen name will be on the tongues of basketball enthusiasts as the class of 2019 guard’s recruitment continues to surge.
Brown becoming a priority again
Christian Brown has been heavily discussed throughout the years and while he has been hampered by injuries and struggled in the efficiency column because of it, things look to be headed back in the right direction. Brown is having a basketball renaissance of sorts this winter with the famed Oak Hill Academy program as his recruitment has welcomed a few newer programs to it.
Most of the talk this summer was that Brown would end up at Clemson, the program that had recruited him the longest and sits as the in-state program. This still could be the case as assistant coach Steve Smith has done a phenomenal job in recruiting him. But the field vying for his services has become more crowded.
Brown has taken an official visit to Georgia in addition to Clemson. Each remain in the picture, but Illinois and Pitt are two others that have picked things up. NC State coach Kevin Keatts has made it apparent that he would love to throw Brown into his versatile lineup.
A commitment does not seem near but Illinois, NC State and Pitt are in the best spot to receive one of his final official visits. Georgetown and South Carolina are in the picture, too, but the Illini, Wolfpack and Panthers have the greatest traction of late with the four-star.