The Villanova Wildcats will take on the Cincinnati Bearcats on Tuesday night at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. Villanova is coming off back-to-back blowout wins over DePaul and South Florida, while Cincinnati is coming off back-to-back losses to Providence (54-50) and Pittsburgh (62-52). Although Nova’s two wins were against teams at the bottom of the Big East, they did what they had to do, winning those games by an average of 25.5 points.
Here are some things Villanova will have to do to pull off the upset on the road against the Bearcats.
Continue Playing Big
Cincinnati doesn't have great size on the interior, but they are still one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They are first in the Big East in rebounding, and 7th overall in the country at 41.5 rebounds per game. Villanova comes in ranked 59th in the country, grabbing just under 38 rebounds a game, so expect to see a good matchup down low. Mouphtaou Yarou (6’ 10") and Daniel Ochefu (6’ 11") will be going up against a Bearcats front court that includes 6’ 10" Senior Cheikh Mbodj and 6’ 7" Junior Titus Rubles. Yarou is averaging 9 points per game, and just under 7 rebounds while Ochefu is averaging 4 points a game, while grabbing 5 rebounds per contest. Yarou struggled early in the year in Nova’s out-of-conference scheduling which is why his season stats don't look overly impressive, but he has played very well in Big East play. He has recorded 5 double-doubles, and has really been in sync ever since Ochefu was inserted into the starting line-up. Villanova will need to continue feeding the big men as they’ve had success, in particular, with Ochefu near the basket where he can back you down, or with Yarou where he can knock down the 12-16 foot jump shot, in addition to playing around the rim.
Don't Let Their Guards Beat You
Cincinnati has multiple guards that can score the ball from deep as well as blow by you on a drive to the basket. Sean Kilpatrick (18.2 pgg), Cashmere Wright (13.5 ppg), and JaQuon Parker (10.5 ppg) are combining for 59.9% of their total offensive scoring. Each of these guards can create their own shots, and they all just have a scorer’s mentality. Villanova's guards will have to play smart, tough defense and will have to force Cincinnati to take contested jump shots. Nova will need to contain all three guards and force other players on the Bearcats roster to beat them. If Villanova can do that, I think they have a good chance at getting a resume-building win.
Ryan Arcidiacono will be the X-Factor in this Big East Matchup. Ryan has been playing more of a point guard role and has been getting his teammates more involved with every game. He is also taking care of the basketball much better than he did earlier in the year. However, Coach Wright still wants him to shoot, and when he's been on in games it usually results in a Wildcats win. In Villanova's 15 wins he is averaging 13 points a game. However, in their 9 losses he is averaging half that at 7.5 points per game. Look for Arcidiacono to get his teammates involved early, but for him also to get his own shot either from 3-point range or by getting in the lane and finishing.
Cincinnati is coming off back-to-back losses where they averaged only 51 points. They are really struggling to score right now as evidenced by the fact that they haven’t eclipsed their season average of 70.5ppg in their last five games. However, a team with their talent won’t continue to shoot so poorly. Villanova is playing their best basketball of the season right now and I think they are capable of going into Cincinnati and coming out with a win while sending the Bearcats to their third straight loss. I expect this to be a very good basketball game that will go down to the final minutes of regulation.
Villanova wins 66-63.