NCAA

Villanova's Josh Hart making case for Player of the Year award

Villanova's Josh Hart making case for Player of the Year award

It was before the season started, perhaps October, Jay Wright estimates, when Josh Hart and his coach were talking about Hart’s game and his development entering his senior year on the Main Line.

The comment was just one made in passing. Hart told Wright he just needed to focus on being a 3-and-D player.

“He got heated,” Hart recalled, laughing.

“I just knew that was something that somebody else told him and I knew it was something that limited him in terms of just saying all you can do is shoot threes and play defense,” Wright said. 

The lesson from Wright to Hart, as Hart tells it: “Don’t ever put a label on yourself. Don’t ever undermine what else you can do.”

Approximately three months later, Hart’s label is much more than just a guy that shoots three’s and plays D. He’s the frontrunner for the National Player of the Year award, whether you prefer the Naismith or the Wooden Award. No Villanova player has won either. He's averaging 20.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 56 percent from the floor.

He’s the best player on the nation’s best team, which is, of course, coming off a national championship victory in April.

Credit where credit is due: Hart would probably be nowhere near the top of the Wooden Award contenders if not for the players around him. Both he and Wright acknowledge that. These awards and their winners typically feature players from some of the nation’s best teams. When Phil Booth returns, Villanova will have arguably the best seven-man rotation in the country. Hart makes players around him better and vice versa.

What cemented Hart’s name atop the lists was his performance in Villanova’s come-from-behind win over then-No. 23 Notre Dame earlier in the month. His final stat line in his 37 minutes read: 37 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals in a 74-66 win. The 37 points came on 14 shots from the floor and were padded by a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line. 

Per ESPN Stats, Hart became the first player to score at least 35 points and grab at least 10 rebounds while shooting greater than 70 percent from the floor against a ranked team since Antawn Jamison did so for North Carolina in 1998. 

What did Jamison do in 1998? Won both the Wooden and Naismith Awards.

In Villanova’s next game, against crosstown rival Temple, Hart missed his first five shots but later scored 22 points in a nine-minute stretch to blow the game open. 

Wright says was Hart just taking what the opposing defenses gave him in both of those performances. Validation to that comes in his shooting percentages. He isn’t taking bad shots. After missing his first five against Temple, Hart made 10 of 14. 

In the three games leading up to the Notre Dame game, Wright said Hart, on tape, should’ve had three triple-doubles. So Notre Dame elected to play him one-on-one and Hart took what they gave him. 

“I’d really love for it to work out for him, but it’s more important to me that he learns how to play the game the right way, which I think he is, and continues to play that way,” Wright said. “Because I think that’ll be his best chance of being Player of the Year… I also think it’s his best chance of playing at the next level, and it also happens to be the best chance for our team to be the best team.”

The next level is still a question mark for Hart. He’s obviously showing NBA scouts he has what it takes to play at that level. But he’s nowhere near the top of any draft analyst’s draft boards. ESPN’s Chad Ford has Hart ranked 29th on his 2017 big board.

The underdog role has been one Hart is used to since he stepped foot on campus at Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C. Since coming to Villanova, he's waited patiently to be where he is now, both as a leader and player.

“I’m not going to be the most glamorous guy,” Hart said. “If you look at the box scores, you’re not going to be like, ‘Josh Hart, that guy is a player.’ Some games, like Notre Dame, you might. I want to be the guy that scores 15 points but goes and grabs 10 rebounds, goes and gets 5-6 assists, gets some steals, gets some blocks, fill the stat sheet. I don’t value myself on whether I’m making or missing shots. If I do that I’m not doing everything else.

“If you want to value this game on scoring, I’m not going to be the frontrunner. I’m not going to be the first person you think of. If you value this game for what it is, for being a complete basketball player, that’s what I try to be. I might not score 25 points per game, but I’m going to make the winning plays. If that doesn’t put me in certain situations (the NBA draft), it is what it is.”

It’s the winning plays Hart’s making that have Villanova back atop the college basketball world at 12-0. The Wildcats have won 18 in a row dating back to last season. That number will likely hit 19 Wednesday when they open their Big East slate with DePaul before their biggest test to date: a road game at No. 9 Creighton.

Last year in Omaha, Hart went for 25 on 10 of 14 shooting vs. Creighton. Just two of those baskets came from beyond the arc.

And he wanted to just be a 3-and-D guy?

Best of CFB: Mayfield with 3 TDs as No. 5 Sooners top No. 2 Ohio State

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Best of CFB: Mayfield with 3 TDs as No. 5 Sooners top No. 2 Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Baker Mayfield threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns as No. 5 Oklahoma pulled ahead in the second half to knock off No. 2 Ohio State 31-16 on Saturday night to give first-year head coach Lincoln Riley an early signature victory.

Mayfield lived up to his billing as a Heisman Trophy candidate in shifting the Sooners (2-0) into overdrive and piling up the yards in the second half as the Buckeyes' offense sputtered. Oklahoma took its first lead of the game near the end of the third quarter and cruised in the fourth (see full recap)

No. 15 Georgia outslugs No. 24 Notre Dame, 20-19
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Georgia got to Dawg Walk out of Notre Dame Stadium with a victory, dozens of its fans forming a line from the locker room to the buses to congratulate the Bulldogs after their first trip to this part of the country in more than 50 years.

Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy led a swarming Georgia defense and the No. 15 Bulldogs got enough plays from an offense starting a freshman quarterback to beat No. 24 Notre Dame 20-19 on Saturday night (see full recap).

The Bryants lead No. 3 Tigers to 14-6 win over No. 13 Auburn
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson's new starting quarterback had an easy way for the third-ranked Tigers to keep winning the next several years - recruit more Bryants.

Kelly Bryant, Clemson's first-year starter, ran for two touchdowns after a scary hit knocked him to the ground and defensive end Austin Bryant had four of the Tigers' 11 sacks in a 14-6 victory over No. 13 Auburn on Saturday night.

"The Bryant guys were pretty good," said Kelly, who's not related to Austin. "We've got to keep it going."

If they do, the defending champion Tigers (2-0) might be playing in their third straight title game (see full recap).

No. 6 USC routs No. 14 Stanford 42-24 for 11th straight win
LOS ANGELES -- Steven Mitchell and Deontay Burnett caught two touchdown passes apiece from Sam Darnold, and No. 6 Southern California extended its winning streak to 11 games with a bruising 42-24 victory over No. 14 Stanford on Saturday night.

Darnold went 21 of 26 with 316 yards passing for the Trojans (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who snapped their three-game losing streak in this California private-school rivalry. USC racked up 623 total yards and won the first Pac-12 game of the new season by beating the hard-nosed Cardinal (1-1, 0-1) at their own physical game (see full recap).

Villanova at Temple: The return of the Mayor's Cup

Villanova at Temple: The return of the Mayor's Cup

FCS No. 6 Villanova (1-0, 0-0 CAA) at Temple (0-1, 0-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN3

The rivalry between Temple and Villanova moves from the hardwood back outside to the gridiron on Saturday afternoon as the Owls and the Wildcats will play for the Mayor’s Cup for the first time in five seasons.

Temple heads into the matchup reeling after a thorough 49-16 defeat at Notre Dame last week in new head coach Geoff Collins’ debut, a game that saw the Owls get handled in every facet by the Fighting Irish.

Villanova, now No. 6 in the FCS rankings, comes into the contest at 1-0 after a hard-fought 38-35 victory at Lehigh in the first game of the post-Andy Talley era.

To get you ready for Saturday’s matchup, CSNPhilly.com reporter Greg Paone and CSNPhilly.com contributor Dave Zeitlin break down all you need to know about the Owls and the Wildcats.

Scouting Temple
The Owls still have plenty of questions after last week’s shellacking at Notre Dame, but one huge one was answered in the form of a starting QB as redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi emerged victorious from the summer’s four-horse race for the starting crown. Marchi, who entered the game with only two career completions on six attempts, had some early jitters but settled in as he went 19 for 35 with two TD passes. He’ll look to keep the confidence growing and take another step forward against the Wildcats. Sophomore WR Isaiah Wright is a player to keep an eye on when the Owls’ offense is on the field. A versatile weapon who can line up all over the field, he made an impact last week when the ball was in his hands with four grabs for a team-high 78 yards. Junior tailback Ryquell Armstead toted the rock 19 times for 68 yards. Look for the Owls to feed him and attempt to get him more involved on Saturday.

To call Temple’s rushing defense last week porous would be doing it an injustice. The Owls were gashed for 422 yards on the ground by the Irish, who had three players with over 100 yards on the ground. Tailback Josh Adams had a game-high 161 yards, while fellow RB Dexter Williams had 124 yards and QB Brandon Wimbush had 106 yards of his own. The Irish had five rushing TDs on the day. Temple held Notre Dame’s passing attack in check, though, as the Irish had only 184 yards and a single score through the air. Redshirt junior safety Delvon Randall led the way with 11 total tackles for the Owls. - Paone

Scouting Villanova
As always, the Wildcats will be a power in the Colonial Athletic Association, arguably the best conference in the FCS, as well as on the national FCS scene. The Wildcats ascended to the No. 6 ranking after opening their season with a 38-35 win over Lehigh in Mark Ferrante’s first game as head coach. Ferrante, a longtime Villanova assistant, took over for Talley, who retired after 32 years on the job.

In the win, Villanova was led by quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as he looks to come into his own in his third year starting under center. Senior running back Matt Gudzak, who shares carries with Aaron Forbes, ran for a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns, while tight end Ryan Bell and big-play receiver Taurus Phillips combined for 175 receiving yards. Defensively, Villanova is paced by preseason All-American safety Rob Rolle and senior linebacker Ed Shockley, the latter of whom had a career-high 14 tackles (13 solo) in the opener. - Zeitlin

History
The Wildcats hold a 16-15-2 all-time advantage over the Owls in a series that dates back to 1928.

Temple has won the last three meetings, the most recent of which was a 41-10 decision on Aug. 31, 2012. In those last three meetings, the Owls have outscored the ‘Cats by a 114-41 margin.

Villanova’s last victory came in 2009 when the ‘Cats stunned the Owls, 27-24. The Wildcats are 3-18 all time against FCS foes and two of those three wins have come at the expense of the Owls (2003, 2009).

Storylines to watch
Temple: If one’s a coincidence, is two a trend with the rushing defense?

As noted above, the Owls were absolutely gashed by the Fighting Irish last week to the tune of 422 rushing yards, the most Temple has given up to a non-option team in the last nine years. Not pretty at all, obviously, but Notre Dame is a different animal that features some of the best talent in the nation.

Still, defensive coordinator Taver Johnson’s group needs to rebound against the Wildcats before other teams start to get the book on the Owls’ weaknesses. Especially before AAC play begins in two weeks with a trip to conference darling South Florida.

But just because Villanova is an FCS squad doesn’t mean that will be an easy task for Temple as the Wildcats feature a formidable duo at tailback in Gudzak and Forbes. - Paone

Villanova: Defensive litmus test

After surrendering five touchdowns vs. Lehigh, it’s clear the ’Cats have some work to do to try to match the level of their FCS-leading defense from a year ago. But can they pick up the pace against an FBS opponent that has the kind of offensive weapons they’re not used to seeing? One interesting thing to watch will be to see if their two defensive stars and captains — Shockley and Rolle — can show they belong. Both are from South Jersey and know a lot of guys on Temple, and Rolle in particular is motivated by the Owls passing on him during the recruiting process (see story). - Zeitlin

What’s at stake?
Temple: Pressure of the dreaded 0-2 hole

The last thing Collins and the Owls need as they gear up for conference play in a couple weeks is the added pressure that comes with falling in an 0-2 hole. If they lose Saturday to Villanova the questions will come in a fast and furious manner. That can be an issue for a young team and its new head coach, both of which are trying to smooth out the bumps that come with a new starting QB and replacing seven starters on defense. It’s way too early to call this a “must-win” for Temple, but it will be a long week at 10th and Diamond Streets if the Owls drop this one. - Paone

Villanova: FBS spotlight

A loss would do little to damage the Wildcats’ playoff hopes, but a win over the Owls on Saturday afternoon may give them the kind of national attention they don’t usually get at the FCS level. - Zeitlin

Predictions
Paone: Villanova is very good team and the Owls will have egg on their faces if they think any differently just because the ‘Cats play at the FCS level. But a focused Temple team comes to the Linc on Saturday with just too much firepower in hand for Villanova to handle.

Temple 31, Villanova 20

Zeitlin: Villanova may be able to keep it close as it has vs. FCS programs in the past. But, in the end, the talent and depth differences will be too much to overcome.

Temple 35, Villanova 24