DiVincenzo has been as good as advertised (especially in the Wildcats’ first two games), but maybe I was underestimating another Villanova player.
That player: junior wing Mikal Bridges.
Through four games, including Wednesday’s win over Western Kentucky in the Bahamas, Bridges is averaging 18 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 3.5 steals and two blocks per night. He’s also shooting at a high efficiency — over 56 percent overall and 49 percent from three — and has continued his elite defense from his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
Against the Hilltoppers in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Bridges was outstanding. He was versatile on offense (knocking down threes and scoring in the post and in transition) and made numerous plays defensively that led to Villanova extending their lead to 16 points in the second half.
There is no question that point guard Jalen Brunson is the leader of this Villanova roster and their best player, but it’s evident that Bridges is molding into option 1B and a potential superstar alongside his junior teammate.
Even though it’s a small sample size given the opponents the Wildcats have faced, Bridges has shown improvements that top-notch college stars typically make between their sophomore and junior campaigns.
We already knew about Bridges and his defensive ability coming into the 2017-18 season. What we didn’t know is how comfortable he would be shooting beyond the arc.
This is a huge development for Villanova because the wing is showing that the potential to be a consistent three-point shooter is there.
In turn, Villanova’s spacing is much better with Bridges threatening defenses from deep and it allows Brunson to penetrate knowing he has yet another outlet to dish the ball too.
It also helps keep defenses honest as Bridges can mix in the drive-and-finish, making him that much more of a mismatch for players that aren’t as long, quick and athletic.
It’s still early in the season and a test against Arizona could loom on Friday, but Bridges has proven that he has college superstar and NBA 3-and-D level upside. If he can continue to play this well, Villanova will likely win their fifth straight Big East crown and once again be a factor in the NCAA Tournament come March.