CONWAY, S.C. – The faces certainly have changed this season for the Villanova Wildcats, who have one of the youngest lineups in Coach Jay Wright’s 19 years leading the team. But one thing the Wildcats hope will remain the same is their recent run of November tournament success.
Villanova enters the Myrtle Beach Invitational having won six consecutive November tournaments. The streak began in 2013 at the Battle 4 Atlantis, followed by championship trophies from the 2014 Legends Classic, the 2015 NIT Season Tip-Off, the 2016 Charleston Classic, the 2017 Battle 4 Atlantis (again), and the 2018 AdvoCare Invitational.
Wright credits his players with being about to block out the distractions that can come with spending nearly a week at a tourist location, and instead focus on the tournament task at hand.
“The reason you are able to win these is by having good players who are intelligent,” Wright said. “If you get caught up in everything else and that’s more important to you than being a good player and teammate, that can affect you. The guys we’ve had over the years have known these tournaments are an opportunity to play great competition, and they take it very seriously.”
November tournaments also offer teams a chance to recover from a disappointing start to the season, as Villanova showed last year. The Wildcats opened up 2-2 with a loss to Furman, and fell out of the Top 25 for the first time in five years. They responded by winning the AdvoCare Invitational, sparking a run of 17 victories over 19 games.
The Wildcats could use a similar reboot at this year’s Myrtle Beach Invitational. After beating Army 97-54 in the season opener, they lost to Ohio State 76-51. It was a surprising result considering Villanova has won two of the past three national championships.
But most of those key contributors are gone, including the two leading scorers from last season (Phil Booth and Golden State rookie Eric Paschall). In their place, Wright has started a lineup that is so young it includes two freshmen (Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore), marking the first time that has happened in a Villanova season-opener since 2002.
“We have a lot of guys playing major minutes for the first time,” Wright said after the Ohio State game. “These guys have to learn to play together and trust each other. I knew we’d have a lot to learn, but I didn’t think we’d be that far behind at this point. We just have to stick together and go back to work.”
Villanova will tipoff the Myrtle Beach Invitational against Middle Tennessee at 11:30 a.m. ET on Nov. 21 at the HTC Center on the campus of Coastal Carolina University. That game will be followed by Baylor vs. Ohio, Mississippi State vs. Tulane, and Utah vs. Coastal Carolina. All four games will be broadcast on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.