After their opening round win over UC-Riverside, the Villanova Wildcats move on to face the Saint Louis Billikens in the semi-finals of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, CA. While 'Nova had a relatively easy time against UCR, Saint Louis got a little bit of a fight from Boston College, though they were eventually able to win 62-51.
As has been the case for much of the season, it was mostly a two-man show for the Billikens with Brian Conklin (18 points) and Kwamain Mitchell (20 points) leading the way to victory.
After The Jump we'll take a closer look at what we can expect from Saint Louis.
After struggling with their shot in the first half against BC, Rick Majerus' squad turned up the offense and finished by shooting 42% from the field for the game after hovering around 30% for much of the first half. If there are two things to know about Saint Louis, it's that everybody on the team is a pretty good shooter, and they do not turn the ball over often on offense (just 7 times against BC).
6'6 senior forward Brian Conklin is the main threat for Saint Louis. Conklin entered Thursday's game with BC shooting 63% from the field and then increased that number by going 7-11 against the Eagles. He can score in a variety of ways and is a hoss in the post despite his small stature height-wise.
5'10" junior point guard Kwamain Mitchell is a more high-energy high-volume shooter than Conklin, and is capable of getting very very hot on any given night. But typically he's not as efficient from the field as Conklin. Expect to see Dominic Cheek and James Bell split duties on Conklin while Maalik Wayns draws the assignment on Mitchell.
6'8" Australian bruiser Cody Ellis is the final piece of the offensive puzzle for Saint Louis. The big man from Perth can get it done down low and from the outside, so he should present and interesting matchup for Mouphtaou Yarou. At 240 pounds he has the frame to deal with Yarou on defense, but with Yarou's strong start to the season it remains to be seen how well he will handle the big man.
Past those three, there are a bunch of role players on the team that split the rest of the production pretty equally. Villanova's biggest concern is the fact that everybody on the Billikens' roster can shoot it from anywhere on the floor. The frontcourt players will need to be prepared to defend 25 feet from the basket, because all 5 guys for Saint Louis will be more than happy to take open 3's. Drawing Yarou away from the paint is also in the best interest for Majerus as it will help neutralize his rebounding prowess.
This will be a major test for this young Wildcats team. Saint Louis is already garnering national attention (they received votes in both polls this past week) and is projected to be one of the best mid-majors in the country. This would be both a resume-building win and a win that this inexperienced team can look back on when they enter the Big East.
SAINT LOUIS PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
SAINT LOUIS BENCH
There are no injuries to report for either team.
Prediction: Villanova wins 68-64
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