The Villanova Wildcats (13-7, 4-3) will head to South Bend, Indiana to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-4, 4-3) on Wednesday, January 30th at 6PM. The Wildcats are coming off back–to-back wins at home vs #5 Louisville and #3 Syracuse. The last time the 'Cats knocked off two top-5 teams in a single week was the 1985 Final Four where Villanova beat Memphis State and Georgetown. Notre Dame, however, has been going through a little skid as of late, having lost 3 of its last 5 games. To make matters worse, they just lost experienced 5th year Senior Scott Martin for what they think will be the remainder of the season due to reoccurring knee issues. Martin has been averaging 7.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, including shooting 46.3% from 3-point range.
Here are some things Villanova will have to do to beat the Fighting Irish.
Shut Down Notre Dame's Outside Shooting Attack
As a team, Notre Dame is shooting 39.7% from behind the arch. Notre Dame has two players, in particular, that can light it up from deep - Pat Connaughton and Eric Atkins. Connaughton is shooting 40.2 percent, and Atkins is shooting it at a remarkable 44.8%. Villanova has been doing a better job, as of late, collapsing on the open shooters and making it difficult for the opposition to get clean, open looks from three. Look for Villanova to continue their aggressive defense and make it a rough night shooting for the Fighting Irish.
Mouph Yarou has been playing much better over the last several games. He is coming off what is arguably his best game of the season vs Syracuse, where he had 14 points and 16 rebounds, (8 offensive). His performance against Syracuse was his 4th double-double of the year. Overall this season, Mouph is scoring 8.3 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game. However, he will be going against one of the best big men in the Big East, Jack Cooley. Cooley, the 6-9 Senior, is putting up pretty impressive numbers this year. He is averaging a double-double for the season, with 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. This is a very intriguing matchup because Mouph is a very good defensive player and will make it tough for Cooley to score. Offensive rebounding is one of Cooley's strengths, so Yarou and Ochefu will have to put a body on him every time a shot goes up.
In Villanova’s last two games against Louisville and Syracuse, both teams were in a 2-3 zone. However, look for Notre Dame to go lock down man-to-man. We will need to see if Villanova can adjust, and can create separation to get good shots. Ryan Arcidiacono will have to be smart and get open looks for his teammates on the wings and down low in the post. Villanova's defensive gameplan will also need to be the same. They need to continue playing tenacious defense because Notre Dame has many players who can score. Cooley, Grant, and Atkins all average over double digits, while Connaughton is slightly under 10 points per game.
Villanova stays hot and beats a struggling Notre Dame team on the road 64-57.