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The panic button has officially been hit on the Main Line, as the Villanova Wildcats are fading in a hurry. After a 16-1 start, Nova has gone a meager 5-7 in their last 12 games. Excuses can be made, such as the difficulty of the Big East, injuries, coaching gaffes, shooting woes, etc. Regardless, this team has flaws, but the season is not over by any stretch of the imagination. If Villanova thinks that, they are going to get routed in their last slew of games, because the competition only gets better from here on out.
Coming into Philly on Saturday is the St. John's Red Storm, easily the hottest team in the conference and quite possibly, the country. Head coach Steve Lavin has brought life back into NYC basketball, and they would love nothing more than to take down another ranked team. It's a matchup of two teams currently headed in complete opposite directions this weekend at the Wells Fargo Center.
More on the game after the jump...
Time: 2 PM Eastern Time
Location: Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA
TV: ESPN with Mike Patrick and Len Elmore calling the action
About the Red Storm
This year's version of the Johnnies has done nothing but impress this year in college basketball. Many thought Steve Lavin was the right man for the job, but most would be lying if they thought St. John's would turn it around this fast. The season didn't start off great for the Storm though, as they lost to two extremely weak teams, Fordham and St. Bonaventure, in early December. Since then, all they've done is win 10 Big East games, including victories over West Virginia, Georgetown, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh. The Storm also took down the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils in late January at Madison Square Garden. Currently at 10-5 in the conference, St. John's is in great shape to earn a double bye in the upcoming Big East Tournament, where they may be the darkhorse considering how well they have played at MSG.
Lavin's squad is filled with seasoned veterans who have been through the wars in the Big East. Senior Dwight Hardy, who may be in contention for conference player of the year, leads the Red Storm in scoring at 17 points per game on 44.8% shooting from the field and 86.2% shooting from the charity stripe. Complimenting Hardy on the offensive end are seniors Justin Brownlee and D.J. Kennedy, who both average over 10 ppg and 5 rebounds a contest. Senior Malik Boothe is the creator, as he averages nearly 3 assists a game, and he leads the team in 3 point shooting at 35%.
Last year at MSG, Villanova came back from a double digit first half deficit to beat St. John's 81-71.
What to Expect
Desperation needs to be the theme of the day for the Cats. Tomorrow's game is technically not a must win, but it really is when looking at the overall picture. First, it's Villanova's last home game of the season. Second, Nova is coming off a loss at home. Third, this team needs something, anything to hang their hats on before a brutal stretch next week. Lastly, the final 2 games of the regular season are at Notre Dame and at Pittsburgh.
The crowd may be light tomorrow at the Wells Fargo Center, as the students begin their spring break. I'm still hoping for an electric atmosphere for the better tip time of 2PM with solid weather in the forecast.
Certainly, St. John's is on a roll and have been giant killers, but in all fairness, they are a completely different team on the road. With the crowd in Villanova's favor, there should be no excuses for the Cats. It's time to finally get a big win in what seems like an eternity.
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