USA TODAY Sports
The Providence Friars (10-11, 2-7) will travel to the Pavilion to take on the Villanova Wildcats (13-8, 4-4) on Sunday at 12PM. Providence is coming off an overtime loss to Uconn. Villanova played well in their last game, but lost to Notre Dame on the road by 5 points. Providence is 2-8 in their last 10, but one of the wins was against Villanova where they beat the Wildcats 69-66 at the Dunkin Donuts Center back on January 19th. Providence is 1-5 on the road this season while Villanova is 6-2 at the Pavilion. Here are some things Villanova will have to do to knock off the Friars.
Break Providence's Press
In Nova’s first meeting, Providence's press gave the Wildcats a lot of trouble. Providence forced Villanova to turn the ball of 24 times, a lot of them coming from their inability to break the press. Other turnovers were a result of Nova’s young backcourt of Ryan Arcidiacono who had 5 turnovers, and Tony Chennault who had 4. The first Providence game was Arcidiacono's first game against a press like that at the college level. Villanova's guards will have to do a better job of surveying the court, getting it to half court, and making strong, crisp passes to set up their offense, or even better, get easy scores against their press. Nova’s backcourt will need to stay under control and keep turnovers to a minimum. I expect Villanova to have a better strategy this time around vs the Friars.
Contain Bryce Cotton
Sophomore guard Bryce Cotton is Providence's leading scorer. He is averaging 21.7 points per game while also dishing out 3 assists per game. He lit Villanova up in the first meeting where he shot 44 percent from the field and ended the day with 24 points. Villanova will have to do a better job of trying just to limit his shot opportunities because you can't outright stop him - you can only hope to limit him. Cotton just has a knack for scoring the basketball.
Continue Playing With Confidence
As of late, Villanova has been playing with much more confidence, and you can clearly see it by just watching the last three games. There is a dramatic difference in play from the earlier part of the season to now. You can see what big man Mouphtaou Yarou can do when he plays with confidence. He is coming off two of his best games of the season where he had 16 rebounds and 14 points in the upset win over Syracuse and 20 points on Wednesday vs the Irish. Mouph is just one example of playing with confidence, as the team, in general, seems to have jelled and is playing with a much higher degree of confidence. When Nova plays with confidence and is aggressive, I believe they can play with almost every team in the country as they have shown vs two Top 5 teams in Syracuse and Louisville.
Darrun Hilliard will be the X-FACTOR in this basketball game. He is coming off a great week where he was honored as Big East Player of the Week, and also the National Player of the Week. Hilliard averaged 18 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists as and also shot 11-17 (65%) from the floor including 4-10 from behind the arch. He is one of the few players on Villanova who can create his own shot from any place on the floor. I expect Hilliard to play another huge role in this game.
Providence is a horrendous road team and I think they will have their hands full with this Villanova basketball team. I think Villanova wins this game 68-57.