The Villanova Wildcats (13-9, 4-5) will head to the midwest to take on the DePaul Blue Demons (10-11, 1-7) on Tuesday at 7PM. The game can be seen on ESPN2. Both teams are coming off losses with Villanova falling to Providence at home and Depaul losing to Notre Dame in overtime. Depaul’s loss marks their sixth loss in a row. However, don't be fooled by their record. This team plays hard for head coach Oliver Purnell. In those six losses they have played close with 4 out of the 6 teams, with a lot of them going down to the final minutes of regulation.
Here are some things Villanova will need to do to knock of the Blue Demons.
Villanova has a major size advantage in this matchup. With bigs Mouphtaou Yarou and Daniel Ochefu both standing close to 6’ 10", they should be able to dominate inside against this Depaul team who’s biggest player with significant minutes is Cleveland Melvin at 6’ 8". Melvin is averaging 16.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, so he is a force offensively and on the glass. In recent games, Nova has pounded the ball inside early to Yarou and Ochefu and have been successful in doing so. This approach has produced positive results - a solid shot for the big men, a pass inside to a cutting player, or outside to the perimeter for an open shot. While the ‘Cats have had success with this approach, it seems at times that Jay Wright gets away from that game plan in the second half. Villanova will need to look inside for the majority of the game as it has proven to be a formula for success.
While Nova has been playing better defense over the last several games, they have had a tendency to leave shooters wide open from 3-point range, as a result of missed switches or simply due to getting beat on quick ball movement. That was really evident late in the game against Notre Dame when Cameron Biedscheid hit 5-7 from beyond the arch, with several coming late in the game. In their two upset wins at home vs Louisville and Syracuse, Villanova really collapsed on the outside shooters, forcing them to either give it up, or take a highly contested shot. Villanova needs to get back playing that way defensively against Depaul, although the Blue Demons have not shot well from beyond the arch. They are shooting a horrendous 29% as a team this year.
Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin
Junior Guard Brandon Young is leading the Blue Demons in scoring this season. He is averaging 16.6 points per game, while shooting 43% from the field. He is also dishing out 3.5 assists per game. Junior Forward Cleveland Melvin, as referenced earlier, is averaging 16.5 points per game, while also grabbing just under 8 rebounds a game. These two players can really hurt you if you let them get going. Villanova has to make sure they are playing good help defense when they drive to the hoop as well as making the Blue Demons shoot tough, contested shots.
The X-Factor in this game for the Wildcats will be Ryan Arcidiacono. When he plays well, Villanova tends to win. In Villanova's 13 wins he is averaging 13 points a game. However, in their 9 losses he is averaging 7.5 points per game. He will really need to get shots for others by driving and kicking out to open shooters, but he will also need to find and create his own shot. He has been hot and cold game to game this year, but has shown signs of not only being able to drain long 3’s, but also drive and shoot or drive and dish successfully.
This game scares me because DePaul played very well in their most recent games vs Notre Dame and St. Johns and it seems like they have been just a couple plays away from winning those games. If Villanova thinks they can just walk into Allstate Arena and get a win vs a team under .500, they’re wrong. They need to come out playing hard on both ends of the floor. This is a must win for Villanova if they want to keep their slim chances of a bid for the NCAA Tournament alive. I feel like Jay Wright knows what’s at stake, and will have his team prepared. Villanova wins this close Big East Matchup 69-64.