Villanova faced Boston University last season in the early rounds of the preseason NIT. The Terriers fought hard, but Pat Chambers' team couldn't overcome their half-time deficit. This season, the America East conference foes will visit Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center and have swapped former Jay Wright assistant Pat Chambers for another former Wright assistant in Joe Jones.
Jones was previously the head coach at Columbia University, a post he took after leaving the Main Line. His new team is believed to be among the contenders to take this season's America East title.
They already have wins over Delaware, Hofstra, Rhode Island and Boston College and will hope to score another upset win over a major conference program whose weaknesses have been exposed early on.
One of those weaknesses is perimeter defense. Teams that can shoot the 3 have burned Nova from deep repeatedly this season. Boston University has shot only 29.6% from deep so far this season, however, so the 'Cats may not have to worry as much about their shooters. The Terriers do have a few threats, however, including sophomore forward Travis Robinson, who has connected on 10 of 19 (52.6%) of his 3-point attempts this season. Point guard,D.J. Irving, is second on the team, shooting 36.4% from deep.
Darryl Partin, a La Salle transfer, has averaged 22.7 points to lead his team in about 34.7 minutes per game. His scoring average is good for fifth-best in the nation. He also contributes 4.2 rebounds per game. He is joined in double-digits by Irving, who averages 12.8 points, 5.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals per contest. No other player has averaged double-digit points this season.
Villanova will have to work harder on the boards to secure a win. BU's leading rebounder is a 6-6 forward from Queens, New York, Patrick Hazel, who has grabbed 7 rebounds per contest for the Terriers. Is a 5th-year senior who transferred to BU from Marquette. Dom Morris, a 6-7 forward, is their second-leading rebounder with 6.4 per game.
The Terriers won't out-muscle Villanova's bigs to grab boards, but they might out-work them. With Villanova's tendency to take numerous bad shots from deep, however, second-chance opportunities are clearly important.
The Wildcats are lead by Mouphtaou Yarou on the boards, with 8.3 rebounds per game. The Villanova center also averages 15.2 points so far this season, good for second on the team after Maalik Wayns' 18.7.
Offensively, the Wildcats have struggled shooting from beyond the arc Dominic Cheek and Wayns have highlighted that futility, but other players have also gone on cold streaks. Darrun Hilliard had a poor night shooting on Saturday, but still maintains the team's best 3-point shooting percentage at 43.3% while James Bell has connected on 39.5%.
Yarou has been a good weapon for easy scores and has the highest field goal percentage on the team. There seems to be trouble getting the ball into Yarou's hands at times, however, possibly because those outside shots haven't been falling to keep defenders honest.
Villanova needs to "grow up," according to head coach Jay Wright. Particularly, he would like to see his team mature on the defensive side. They rank 127th in the nation on defense to form one of the worst defensive efforts of the Jay Wright era. They are 321st in generating turnovers, 328th in opponent free-throw percent and 309th in steals percent — all areas in desperate and immediate need for improvement.
Boston University is 194th in defensive efficiency and 157th on offense, according to Ken Pomeroy.
Boston University presents an opportunity for Jay Wright to try some new ideas, to shake things up and to give his players an opportunity to learn a few things. The final score doesn't matter as much as how the 'Cats arrive there.
The game will tip-off at 7:00pm tonight from the Wells Fargo Center and be broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.