The Penn Quakers squad that will welcome the Villanova Wildcats into The Palestra on Saturday night will probably be chomping at the bit at the thought of a potential upset of their cross-city rivals that have had their number for years. For as much talent as Villanova may appear to possess on paper, their performances on the court this season have been anything but the look of a powerhouse Big East program.
Despite Villanova's struggles though, Penn would appear to be no match for them on Saturday night as the Quakers lone wins this season have come against UMBC and Binghamton. Gone is last year's leading scorer Zack Rosen, who is probably lamenting the fact that he won't get to face Villanova's 3 point defense.
This year, the primary scoring duties fall on 2 players - Fran Dougherty and Miles Cartwright. Dougherty represents the inside presence for the Quakers. He's currently averaging close to a double-dobule (17.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and will have to be the main focus of the interior Villanova defense. One would hope that between Mouphtaou Yarou, Maurice Sutton and Daniel Ochefu - 3 above-average post defenders - that they'll be able to slow Dougherty down.
On the perimeter, the Villanova guards will need to keep an eye on Miles Cartwright. The junior from Canada recorded 12 points against the Wildcats last season, and is averaging a nice line of 14.1 ppg and 3.3 apg - though he's averaging nearly 3 turnovers per game as well.
After that, the Wildcats will see a collection of role players - none of whom should frighten Jay Wright. Penn has 9 players who average between 2 and 6 points per game. So who steps up past Dougherty and Cartwright is anyone's guess.
Somewhat surprisingly the Quakers don't shoot it great from deep (just over 30% as a team) - perhaps a bit uncommon for an Ivy League foe. That's no excuse for the Villanova defense however, who have shown historically that you can throw 3-point stats out the window.
On Villanova's end, this game is more than just winning, or winning by a certain amount. Jay Wright already has the fanbase wondering if he's the right man for the job - and it boils down to just more than wins and losses. Wright needs to show that he can coach this team effectively and put them in a position to succeed. Here's what we'll be looking for on Saturday night:
Assists vs. Turnovers - As Jimdribbless frequently points outs, this is the biggest problem plaguing this team. Sloppy passing, lazy ball-handling and selfish play have led us to a point where we just committed 20 turnovers in a game, while recording 8 assists. That is truly horrible. We need to get to a point where the assists outweigh the turnovers, and fast.
Player rotations - Jay Wright showed an unreasonable commitment to players who were not playing well, while keeping players who were having a positive impact glued to the bench. Favoritism would be the popular word to describe those actions. If 'Nova starts slowly, how long will Jay stick with the starters?
Attitude - How will the players respond to the 4-4 start? Will they rally together and push through it, or will this up and down start be a sign of things to come? At some point, the players are going to have to figure out how to fix this, and not rely on the sentiment that the coach is the only problem.
The game tips off at 8:00 pm ET and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.