The Villanova Wildcats will travel to Syracuse, NY to take on the Orange on Saturday, December 28th at 2PM. The game will be nationally televised on CBS.
The Wildcats improved to 11-0 for only the 4th time in team history, with an 88-67 win over Rider. Villanova is off to their best start since the 1961-62 team, which won its first 12 games.
"That’s a great start, man," coach Jay Wright quipped after the game. "I’m very proud of that."
Freshman, Josh Hart led the way, scoring 19 points on 6-7 shooting. He got a nice ovation from the fans while leaving the court towards the end of the game. He is one of the best freshmen in the country, and no one is talking about him. Villanova's bench outscored Rider's 40-7.
Syracuse is also off to a great start. The Orange are 11-0 as well, and are ranked #2 in the country. They are also coming off an easy win over High Point, 75-54. They have a couple of decent wins so far as they have beaten Baylor, Indiana, but barely got by St. Johns, 68-63.
Villanova finalized a 2-year agreement with Syracuse after the Orange left the Big East for the ACC. They will play this year’s game at the Carrier Dome, and next year they will play at the Wells Fargo Center. They are also attempting to get a game at MSG the following year. Glad to see they are keeping the rivalry alive!
Dylan Ennis will be playing his brother, Tyler, who is having a very good first year at Syracuse. He is averaging 12.1 points per game while leading the team in assists at 5.4 per game. He plays beyond his years and has a very high basketball IQ.
This game is highly anticipated by the Wildcats. They were solely focused on Rider on Saturday, and didn't look ahead to Syracuse. Now that the Rider win is behind them, all their focus is on the Orange. They have a mentality of taking it game by game, and they have done that thus far this season.
"Our guys came to play," Wright said. "They have break coming up and everyone has been talking to them about the Syracuse game. It’s really a pleasure to coach guys that can focus on the next game and have respect for their opponent."
Hilliard on Syracuse "It’ll be a lot of fun," "We have a lot of work ahead of us before next game. We’ve gotta look though film tomorrow and get our bodies right for that game. We’ve gotta get prepared. It’s going to be a good game and we’ve got to come out and do what we do best."
The last time we played Syracuse, this happened.
FG%- Nova 44%, Cuse 47.1%
3 PT%- Nova 32.1%, Cuse 36.6%
PPG- Nova 82, Cuse 76.5
RPG- Nova 42.5, Cuse 35.5 (it’s not the height that matters, it is about WANTING the rebound and attacking the basketball.)
APG- Nova 17, Cuse 14.1
Keys to Victory
Attacking the Zone
The Syracuse zone has given teams trouble every year since Jim Boeheim took over in 1976. They recruit players that have great length and can get their hands in the passing lanes defensively. Villanova did a pretty good job exploiting the zone last season and always have under Jay Wright. The key is to get the ball to the foul line. Last season, the Wildcats found Mouph there on multiple occasions where he made some very good decisions. Expect JayVaughn Pinkston to be the guy that Jay Wright plugs in at the foul line. He needs to be a triple threat from that position, whether that be, taking the 15 ft jumper, driving to the rim and getting fouled, or kicking opposite to players on the wings for open 3's. He needs to make smart decisions.
Also, we all know Villanova loves to shoot the ball from deep, attempting just under 26 3's a game. Expect the Wildcats to continue that trend and if they are hot, the Orange will be in store for a long day.
Another key is getting the ball in transition. If Villanova is able to do that like they have done so well for the most part all season, they should have great success. The fast break won’t allow Syracuse to set up their deadly 2-3 zone.
Defend the 3-point line
Villanova has done a very good job this year defending the 3-point line. After a couple years of miscommunications and breakdowns on the perimeter defensively, it looks like the Wildcats have finally figured it out. However, I do not think Villanova has played against a shooter as good as Trevor Cooney this season. They will be seeing a totally different Cooney than they did a year ago when he only scored only six points in the two matchups against the Wildcats.
Cooney, once a Jay Wright recruit, is lighting it up from behind the arch for the Orange. He is shooting just under 49% from 3, a huge bump from his freshman season where he struggled, shooting 32%. 73 of his 105 (69%) shots this season have been from beyond the arch. Cooney has scored double digits in 9 out of the 11 games. The Wildcats need to make sure they close out on Cooney and make him take contested jump shots. Only four other players on Syracuse have attempted a 3-pointer this season. Limiting Trevor Cooney is a key to victory for Villanova.
The Syracuse "Faithful"
Syracuse is expecting over 30,000 fans for this top 10 showdown. Since the Carrier Dome has been open, Villanova has drawn seven of the largest crowds there, all recorded over 31,000. Villanova is 4-3 when the "Dome" has been packed with over 30K. Villanova's only true road game this season was against St. Joes , and the Wildcats handled that pretty well to say the least, leaving Hagan Arena with a 30-point win.
If Villanova can avoid allowing Syracuse to go on runs (which they do so often), it will make coming out with a victory that much easier.
Kris Jenkins will be the X-Factor in this big time showdown vs Syracuse. The moment won't be too big for the freshman. It’s just a gut feeling that he lights it up from 3-point range against the zone.
I wouldn't even consider this an upset because I believe that Villanova is the better team, but that's how most people will look at it.
Villanova goes into the Dome and leaves with a victory 74-63.