The Villanova Wildcats will take on the Connecticut Huskies on Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford, CT at 12pm. The game will be carried on ESPN. Villanova is coming off a tough loss to Cincinnati (68-50) where the team just didn't look prepared and ready to win. Connecticut has all the confidence in the world right now after pulling off an upset win against their rival #6 Syracuse 66-58. The team is playing very well behind first year head coach Kevin Ollie despite the fact that the program is one of the fifteen schools who have drawn bans this season due to academic performance. They are not allowed to make appearances in the Big East Tournament or the NCAA Tournament. Out of those 15 programs, Connecticut is the only Division I school serving the ban.
Here are a few things the Wildcats will have to do to beat the Huskies.
Get Hot From Deep
Villanova is 12-0 when they make six or more 3’s in a game. However, when they’re not hot from the outside, they tend to struggle. Their record is to 3-10 when making fewer than six 3’s.They made only three in the loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday night. Things won't get much easier Saturday, mainly because Connecticut has very good perimeter defense. Opposing Big East teams are shooting just 29% from behind the arch against Connecticut this season. Villanova is shooting 34% from deep. Junior James Bell leads the team in that category at 39%. It's safe to say this squad lives and dies with the 3-ball. For Villanova to pull off a road win, they will need to get open looks from the outside and knock them down.
Protect the Basketball
Although the Wildcats have done a better job protecting the basketball as of late, it became an issue again on Tuesday night against Cincinnati. Villanova coughed it up 19 times, with a lot of those turnovers coming from Nova’s inability to get out of a double team situation. Those situations would either result in a travel, bad pass, or even just having it get ripped out of their hands. Cincinnati had 18 points off of turnovers. I expect Connecticut to come out with a similar strategy in Saturday’s game. Hopefully Villanova learned from their past mistakes against double teams and spent time in practice this week fighting the press and double team situations. If they can find their way out of the trap and find the open man good things will follow on the offensive end of the court.
Defend Napier and Boatright
Connecticut arguably has the best back court in the Big East, which consists of Junior Guard Shabazz Napier and Sophomore Guard Ryan Boatright. Napier leads the Huskies in scoring at 17.2ppg. Boatright is not far behind, averaging just under 16ppg, while also leading the Huskies in assists with 4.4 per contest. These two guards are very explosive and can beat you in many ways. They can blow by you on the dribble, but also have the ability to pull up and knock down a shot from anywhere on the floor. As such, they are very tough to guard. Villanova will have to do the best they can to try to limit them as many ways as possible.
For Villanova to get a resume-building win, JayVaughn Pinkston will need to be the x-factor in this game. Pinkston is averaging 12.5 points per game while grabbing 5 boards per game. He is instant offense off the bench and is shooting a team high 47.5%. He will definitely have an advantage in this game as no one on Connecticut really has the physicality to stop him on the low block or on the outside for that matter. Look for him to have a great game, and hopefully lead 'Nova to victory.
Connecticut is coming off a huge win and the team has a ton of confidence. Also, Connecticut is 11-1 at home this season. To make things worse for Nova, the ‘Cats are not a very good road team. The Uconn guards will be the difference in the game which will result in a Connecticut Victory 68-60.