The Battle for VU: Villanova takes on Vandy in the Big East/SEC Challenge

Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

Villanova and Vanderbilt will face-off in the latest iteration of the Big East/SEC Challenge, as the Wildcats will travel to Nashville on Saturday to face the Commodores.

Villanova has fallen from grace in recent years, but their upcoming battle for "VU" against the SEC's Vanderbilt will pair them against another down-on-its-luck hoops program from a major conference. The 2-3 Commodores lost most of the talent that took them to five of the last six NCAA tournaments to graduation or the NBA. Villanova hasn't been the same since making it to the 2009 NCAA tournament -- the Wildcats made it to seven in a row, but the last two ended with early exits and last season's team didn't even sniff the NIT.

Both programs are fighting to bring young teams around to where they want to be.

Neither team has a tremendous inside presence on offense. Vandy's Rick Odom is very much like Mouph Yarou, scoring more points facing the basket than off of his post moves. Neither team has had huge success launching shots from the perimeter either.

Vanderbilt shoots around 40% from the floor, while Villanova is slightly better at 41%. The Wildcats average 12.3 assists per game, while the 'Dores manage just 9.2. When it comes to rebounding, Villanova grabs over 37 per contest, while the SEC challenger has averaged just 32.2.

Importantly, when it comes to scoring, the Wildcats have averaged a respectable 72.2 points per game, while Vandy has struggled putting up points, averaging just 59.2.

Where Vandy has an edge is in turnovers, averaging 12 per game, they seem to do a better job of protecting the ball than a Villanova team that coughs up possession about 17 times per contest. Villanova hasn't had solid play from either point guard yet this season in that regard.

In a track meet, this Villanova team might win easily, with fewer opportunities for turnovers and less complexity on defense, the 'Cats would probably hold an advantage. If the Commodores are able to control and slow the pace, however, watch-out. Defensive pressure will result in turnovers for Villanova and the team has yet to gel into a defensive scheme this season.

The Wildcats will need to play better defensively to create opportunities against Vanderbilt. This isn't a Big 5 rival or a low-major team looking to validate it's season, it is another major conference program finding itself struggling early in the season, and it is an opportunity for the 'Cats to find their identity.

What do they need to do to find it?

Buckle down on defense: Guard you man and develop some court-awareness so that nobody has an easy shot or path to the basket. Nobody is ever shut-out in this game, but the goal of a basketball defense is to make the opponent work for their points.

Shot selection on offense: Against La Salle, Villanova seemed to often fall into it's old ways of taking long jump shots early in the possession. There is no need for that, especially when there might be a better shot or a better shooter available if you work the ball around the offense a bit. Jay Wright may tell his shooters to keep going even when discouraged, but that doesn't mean to take a long three when it isn't necessary to do so.

Make good decisions after rebounding: Villanova wasn't struggling to grab offensive boards against La Salle, but they were struggling to score off of them. The 'Cats would seem to miss second-chance after second-chance and eventually lose possession, because they attempted a quick shot over the opposing defender rather than working a post move or kicking the ball back out to the guards.

The shot clock resets after the rebound, so use the extra time.

Protect the ball: Don't get caught in traffic and come over to help your point guard when he does. There is no reason to give the opponent a free possession. Not all turnovers are avoidable, but for those that are, get at it.

Finally...

Know the time and score: Always have awareness of the game clock, shot clock and score of both teams. JayVaughn Pinkston claimed he didn't a the end of the 'Cats last game, and while it may not have mattered if he missed a three-pointer as time expired, it does matter that he didn't attempt one.

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