Villanova has played Monmouth six times, only three of which were during the Jay Wright era. I had the pleasure of being at two of those match-ups. They were personally meaningful, because a high school classmate of mine was the star of the Monmouth backcourt at the time -- Chris Kenny. He is still around at Monmouth for this game, but this time as their Director of Basketball Operations.
As smart as Chris Kenny is, he won't be able to do much tomorrow night to help Monmouth notch it's first ever win against the Wildcats. Perhaps the rare home court advantage for the Monmouth Hawks will help.
In one of the two biggest scheduling head-scratchers this season (the other being the decision to play Saturday's game at the cavernous Wells Fargo Center), Villanova agreed to travel up the New Jersey Turnpike to visit the jersey shore school in their 4,100-seat on-campus arena that opened in 2009. It was part of a tremendous scheduling coup for Monmouth, who hosted Rutgers on Saturday.
Even with the game being played on their home court, the 4-7 Hawks would appear unlikely candidates for an upset this week. Their best win so far is likely the one-point victory over Lehigh on November 19th. Ken Pomeroy gives Monmouth only a 2% chance of victory.
No Monmouth player averages double-digit scoring. Sophomore forward Ed Waite leads the team with 9.9 points and 6 assists per game. Junior guard Will Campbell is second for points with 8.8 per game, while senior R.J. Rutledge contributes 8.5 points per game from the backcourt.
Their top three-point shooters, however, are Mike Myers Keitt, who averages 7.7 points and connects on 45.8% of his 3-point attempts, as well as Jordan Davis, scoring 5.8 points on 42.3% shooting from deep. Rutledge, however, has connected on more overall three-pointers than either of those two (13 attempts made), but accomplished that feat by taking almost twice as many deep shots as Keitt.
James Hett leads the Hawks in assists, with 4.3 per game. Despite Hett's number, the Hawks average only 12.4 assists per game as a team, while turning the ball over 15.3 times. The Wildcats average almost exactly the opposite (despite Saturday's heinous outing), with 15.7 assists and 12.1 turnovers per game.
This is the last real chance for Villanova to tune-up before playing Temple and then an unrelenting slate of major conference opponents until the post-season begins. It would be nice to see ball-control and finding better shots to be the points of emphasis offensively. While Fisher appeared to find his shot on Saturday, an encore performance would certainly allow fans to feel confident for Villanova's chances over the holiday break.
Defensively, the 'Cats have looked strong this season. Villanova ranks 25th nationally in field goal percentage defense (.376) and its 60.7 points allowed is 40th in the nation. Additionally, Ken Pomeroy is currently ranking them 22nd in defensive efficiency. Since Pomeroy began his ratings, no team ranked below 25th in defensive efficiency has ever made the Final Four. Ideally, this team will continue to improve defensively and improve that rating into the top-15 or better.
The Hawks will be ready for this game, but if the Wildcats have done their homework and show up ready to play themselves, there should be nothing to worry about.
This game will tip off on Wednesday, December 22nd at 7:05pm from the Multipurpose Activity Center on the campus of Monmouth University. Radio coverage will be provided in Philadelphia on ESPN 950AM. There will be no television or video coverage of the game.
* GTL is a term from the MTV show Jersey Shore, meaning to "go to the GYM, go TANNING and do LAUNDRY," in preparation for a night on the town.