When Villanova took care of business in a sloppy game against Penn, it was a bounce-back. When they squeezed past a good St. Joseph's team, it was momentum. With a win on Sunday night at home against Delaware? Well that, my friends, is called a streak.
Can the Wildcats get a third win in a row against the 3-7 Blue Hens?
Delaware's losses came against some strong programs, Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Temple, and Duke among them. They have also lost to La Salle, Delaware State and Lafayette, however. Those losses have forced them down to 140th in the Ken Pomeroy computer rankings.
Villanova is rated 90th by Pomeroy.
The Blue Hens are lead by Devon Saddler, a junior guard who went off for 27 points against the Wildcats last season. This season he is averaging 20.7 points per game, along with 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He shoots 80% from the free throw line and makes 35.8% of his attempts from beyond the arc.
After Saddler, the Hens are lacking in scorers. Jamelle Hagins, a 6-9 senior forward, is the team's only other double-digit scorer at 12.5 ppg. Hagins has also come up huge on the boards for the Blue Hens, grabbing an average of 12.5 rebounds per game this season. His defensive presence has allowed him to also block an average of 2.8 shots per game. Hagins' best game, offensively was against Temple, when he scored 29 points. His best defensive games were against La Salle, Lafayette and Radford, where he tallied 5, 5 and 4 blocked shots.
They have 86 assists and 234 made field goals so far this season for an assist-rate of 36.7%, while their high number of turnovers give them an assist-to-turnover ratio of about 0.606. Both are worse than Villanova, who post a 52.8% assist-rate and 0.702 assist-to-turnover ratio.
This is a stronger Delaware team than past iterations, but it remains one that is held back by mistakes and miscues similar to the ones that have plagued Villanova lately. In order to beat the Blue Hens and continue to build momentum, the Wildcats will have to limit their own mistakes and play hard defensively to put pressure on their opponent and turn the ball over.
Villanova will need to keep a man on Saddler and keep a big body checking in on Hagins as well. Both players have the talent to make plays in a game like this, so limiting them should help to control the game generally.
The Wildcats turned the ball over less against St. Joe's than they did against Penn, but they had more turnovers than assists in both of those games, a factor that does not bode well for their potential going forward. Sunday's game is another opportunity for the young Wildcats to improve at protecting the ball and making the extra pass.
Achraf Yacoubou is beginning to emerge for the Wildcats as a solid player who can contribute with tough defense and hard work. Against Penn, he lead the 'Cats with 13 points and 6 rebounds, and followed that performance with a 9 point, 7 rebound performance against crosstown rival St. Joe's on Tuesday. He figures to see more playing time as the season progresses, though he is still slated to come off of the bench, much like fellow sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston.
Against St. Joe's, neither point guard turned the ball over, but the assist and scoring numbers from the point guard spot were also low during the contest. This season it seems that the Villanova offense is not going to be nearly as reliant on the point guard spot this season, and if they do, it may not be a great idea.
In short, the Wildcats are a team that is still figuring things out. They are young again this season and still learning how to play together and be effective. The attitude of the players on the court just looks better this season, even if the execution remains lacking in many senses.
Can these players be coached up and turned into a dangerous team by season's end? Villanova fans will have watch and see.
In this game, the 'Cats should be able to win the battle with a little bit of homework and a lot of effort. After the game, they will concentrate on taking final exams this week before heading to West Long Branch, New Jersey to battle Monmouth (who will join the MAAC conference from the NEC next season) on the 22nd.
TV: ESPNUTime: 4:00 p.m. ETPlace: Pavilion, Villanova, PA