Penn's two-time All-Ivy first-team point guard, Zach Rosen, was almost a Wildcat. The Quaker had taken an unofficial visit to Villanova and had been hearing from Jay Wright as well as other Big East coaches during his recruitment when he was in high school. The Villanova coach was impressed with Rosen's talent, but Rosen saw a better opportunity at the Ivy League school without a backcourt stocked with high profile guard recruits.
This weekend Wright may regret missing out on Rosen and his 57.1% 3-point shooting percentage.
Rosen is the force behind the Quakers' offense. He scores 21 points per game, 5.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals. He also shoots 90.6% from the charity stripe.
He does have some help on offense, however. Tyler Bernardini scores an average of 12.5 points per game while grabbing 5.9 rebounds and Miles Cartwright adds 11.1 points and 3.3 assists. Though their season averages on the season are lower, sophomore Marin Kukoc and senior center Rob Belcore were both strong presences for the Quakers on Tuesday, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Kukoc went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in that game, a win over the Manhattan Jaspers at home.
Rosen is the consistent threat that teams need to deal with, however. If there ever was a game to play some junk defense, like the Box and 1, this could be it. The Wildcats will need to find a way to limit Rosen offensively. If they allow Penn's star to go off and and generate a dump-truck full of offense, they might struggle to distance themselves.
Penn doesn't have anyone who can match up with Mouph Yarou. Though the 'Cats may continue to struggle shooting, especially from deep, getting the ball inside to their talented big man is a high percentage opportunity, especially in this game. Villanova can also benefit by driving the lane and either drawing fouls or letting the guards take considerably easier shots.
In fact, getting those easier shots is one of the glaring weaknesses that observers have noted about this season's Wildcats. Shot selection has been an issue for Villanova for a while, but in the past there were always players who could make enough bad shots that it didn't matter. Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes could take some otherwise risky shots and have them fall in. This year's edition of Wildcat basketball hasn't been quite so lucky.
Maalik Wayns is shooting under 30% from 3-point land, but connects on 50% from inside the arc and around 90% at the line. He has taken 36% of his shots from deep this season, however, which plays against his strength. Similarly, Dominic Cheek is connecting on less than one third of his shots (30%) from deep, but takes 53.6% of his field goal attempts from beyond the arc, he is also very accurate inside the arc and has been the team's best free-throw shooter so far this season.
It makes no sense to be taking so many shots from beyond the arc when the player makes a significantly higher percentage inside it. Villanova needs each player to learn how to play to their own strengths, and that is especially true of Wayns, who has demonstrated the ability to draw fouls and score at the free throw line throughout his career.
JayVaughn Pinkston has also been a weakness for Villanova so far. His rust hasn't been shaken off just yet. Pinkston sports a 34.1% turnover percentage so far this season, which is awful (the Division 1 average for a team is 21.4%). His +/- and Roland Rating numbers are similarly abysmal this season, which tends to show that Pinkston has been a net negative for the Wildcats as he tries to work himself back into competitive basketball.
You might scratch your head then when told that Pinkston averages 20 minutes per game and played 24 minutes in a too-close game against Santa Clara -- including important minutes at the end of the game. It seems that Jay Wright believes in his freshman forward to make plays, but until his minutes are more positive, it is a scary proposition to see him playing significant minutes in tight games.
The game will tip off at 7pm on Saturday night from the Pavilion. Video coverage will be available on ESPN3.com.
Don't forget to post your final score predictions in our Closest to the Pin contest.