David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
This won't be the last meeting between for UConn with Villanova like it was when the Huskies knocked off Syracuse earlier this week, but it will be no less meaningful for the Wildcats' postseason-banned opponent.
UConn can't win the Big East title this season due to their post-season ban, but their record puts them in 7th place in the league and they sit only one game back from the top of the standings. Villanova is sitting 2.5 games back from the leader, in 10th place, and a win over the Huskies would be a big boost to the 'Cats resume.
The Huskies are coming off of an upset over number-6 ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night, and with pride and a place in the standings as all they have to play for this season, the Huskies are making the most of their regular-season.
Banned from the NCAA postseason over a poor academic progress score, the Huskies were dealt a big blow right before the season commenced when legendary coach Jim Calhoun opted to retire. His replacement, Kevin Ollie (promoted from the existing staff), has done a good job with a team that wasn't supposed to do much this season. So far they have won 17 games and sit at 7-4 in Big East play.
UConn had wins over three ranked teams; Michigan State, Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Junior guard Shabazz Napier leads the team on the scoreboard, averaging 17.2 points per game, to go along with 4.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals — all while shooting 39.7% from deep. Joining him as a key player is Ryan Boatright, who averages 15.8 ppg, and 4.4 apg, while using over a quarter of the team's offensive possessions.
Boatright connects on 37% of his three-point attempts, and no other Husky has made more than one-third of their shots from that range. As a whole, the Huskies are an average team from three-point range, but their biggest shooting threats need to be minded during a game.
Omar Calhoun and DeAndre Daniels average 11.1 and 10.7 points per game, respectively, to round out the players averaging a double-digit score.
Distance shooting is the biggest hole in Villanova's defense, which has been dramatically improved over the last few years this season. The Wildcats' offense has been lagging behind the efficiency of their defense, causing a lot of low-scoring games.
To keep the UConn offense in check, the 'Cats will need to control Napier, who has become a focal point for the Huskies. He can shoot from distance, slash to the basket and will get to the charity stripe to knock down easy points. Villanova will need to put one of their strongest defensive guards on Napier to have a chance of stopping him, and even then, they may need to bring help over.
A good defensive strategy will have players constantly aware of Napier and Boatright on the court. Those two are the players most likely to burn the 'Cats shooting the ball, and they need to be slowed down if Villanova will have a chance.
The Wildcats offense looks great when they can share the ball and get multiple players involved. Darrun Hilliard works hard, but he needs help from the other guard positions and from the forwards -- JayVaughn Pinkston in particular. Pinkston has quieted down offensively for Villanova in the last couple games, but he is a match-up nightmare when he gets going.
The bigs also need to work the offensive boards hard -- especially if Nova's shots are off the mark. Even if the triples aren't swishing, the 'Cats can control the ball and pick up some second-chance opportunities off of their rebounding. UConn hasn't been great on the offensive glass this season, so that shouldn't be a tall task for Mouph Yarou and Daniel Ochefu to handle.
Nova hasn't really picked up a big quality win on the road yet this season. As good as they've been at home, and especially at the Wells Fargo Center, the 'Cats have looked like an entirely different team outside of the Philadelphia metro-area. Picking up a win against UConn would potentially be a shot in the arm for the team and would keep some of the air in their bubble down the stretch.