As Christmas approaches and the OOC schedule nears the end, Villanova will look to close out the year on a positive note.
Having won 3 games on the bounce, the Villanova Wildcats will trip up the New Jersey Turnpike to take on the Monmouth Hawks at their arena. While it may seem odd for Villanova to travel to such a low-RPI team's campus, it is actually the second time in 3 years that Monmouth will play the host.
Villanova has won the last two meetings by 36 and 40 points, and while the margin of victory may not get that high this season, it should still be a relatively comfortable win for Jay Wright's squad as the holiday season approaches.With just this game and a low-key affair with NJIT left before the Big East schedule gets underway, it's important that the Wildcats not lose their focus and use these remaining games as tune-ups to iron out their deficiencies that will only be more apparent once the competition ramps up.
Monmouth, standing at 5-6 on the season, has gotten destroyed by all of the quality competition they've faced this season. The Hawks' biggest issues reside on offense, where their lack of size and speed has allowed more physical and athletic opposition to not allow them much of anything.
In the backcourt, Jesse Steele returns for his junior season and will run the offense. Standing just 5'8", he finds himself overmatched much of the time, but he did lead Monmouth in scoring against Villanova a season ago. Sophomore Andrew Nicholas has emerged as the team's leading scorer and #1 option at 13.5 ppg and senior Dion Nesmith will provide support to the aforementioned pair with both his scoring (8.4 ppg) and distribution (2.2 apg).
The frontcourt is where Monmouth becomes severely overmatched. Ed Waite, the team's leading rebounder at 6.0 rpg, stands just 6'3" while the "center", Marcus Ware, is the tallest among the bunch at 6'8 and is averaging just under 5 rpg. Khalil Brown and Stephen Spinella are the primary options off the bench in the frontcourt and backcourt, respectively.
Villanova has been playing better of late, and the results are starting to show - but just because their is an inferior opponent doesn't make it a night to take lightly. Turnovers remain a big issue, as does the team's shot selection, especially early in the clock. These are the primary issues to focus on when the 'Cats take on Monmouth - and nothing less than a strong performance should be expected, or acceptable as the team drives towards the Big East opener in 2013.
Villanova and Monmouth will tip off on Saturday December 22nd at 7:00 pm ET. The game will not be aired on TV, but will be available on ESPN3.com.
See also: Brian did a Q&A with Big Apple Buckets for this game, check that out, along with their preview.