By John Fanta
FOX Sports College Basketball Writer
There isn’t a more important factor to the upcoming Big East college basketball season than the status of justin-moore.
The Villanova star, who suffered a torn right Achilles tendon in last season’s Elite Eight, is offering an optimistic scenario for his return to Kyle Neptune and the Wildcats.
Moore told FOX Sports on Monday that he’s currently “targeting some time around the start of the Big East” season. Moore added that the biggest issue he’s dealing with in recovery right now is the mental side of things — learning to believe that when he jumps and runs, the Achilles will remain intact and that he can trust in the recovery. The 6-foot-4 senior guard has addressed the topic with NBA players Kevin Durant and John Wall, who have both shared advice with him on recovering from such an injury.
Justin Moore told John Fanta that he is “targeting some time around the start of the Big East” for his return from an Achilles injury. (Photo courtesy of John Fanta)
What does this news mean? It could change the top of the Big East race.
While Villanova is ranked No. 14 in our preseason top 15 countdown even without Moore, the Wildcats are still a firm No. 2 in the conference heading into the season. Creighton has the on-paper talent to be favored, returning plenty of experience and adding a high-impact transfer to Baylor Scheierman. But if Moore is ready to go when Big East play rolls around, and he’s anything close to what he was before the injury (14.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.3 APG), the gap would close significantly between the Bluejays and Wildcats.
The other candidate to be in the mix near the top of the conference is Xavier, who has a new coach in Sean Miller (2.0) and four returning players who should start for a team that just missed the NCAA Tournament last season, but won the NIT.
Now, there remains a question as to just how well Moore will perform coming off such a significant injury, as a torn Achilles can carry lingering effects. But assuming Moore can make an impact, he could make an impact similar to Villanova making a midseason trade deadline acquisition.
The Wildcats have Caleb Daniels and Jordan Longino as returners, and the coaching staff is high on freshmen Cam Whitmore and Mark Armstrong. Those two first-year players will likely get more opportunities than they would if Moore was healthy. If they develop and Moore comes back strong, he could give the Wildcats a different dimension and put them at the top of the Big East picture.
Why should you avoid betting against them?
Villanova has won either the Big East regular-season or tournament championship every year since 2014. The Wildcats have earned the right for it to be their league until someone takes it from them.
That being said, this is one of the most interesting Villanova seasons in years, mainly because life without Jay Wright brings up many new questions for new coach Neptune and his staff to answer. There’s also the fact that only Daniels, Brandon Slater and Eric Dixon are returners with significant minutes under their belts.
Add in the Moore timeline, the biggest piece of the puzzle, and there’s no shortage of storylines on the Main Line.
If Moore’s plan to return in time for the Big East season comes true, it could be a dream for Villanova and make the Wildcats a top-10 caliber team in the first season of a new era.
More on Villanova:
- Villanova No. 14 on 2022-23 countdown
- Kyle Neptune wants to lead Villanova the Wright way
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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