The Villanova Wildcats (13-9, 4-5) will take on the DePaul Blue Demons (10-11, 1-7) on Tuesday night at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois in a lower standings Big East matchup (7 pm ET, ESPN2). Villanova is fresh off another frustrating loss to the Providence Friars in which Providence couldn't miss a shot, whereas 'Nova couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.
'Nova will once again try to avoid a 3-game losing streak against the Blue Demons, who again find themselves just a half-game out of last place in the conference. DePaul is getting closer to breaking through, however, as they've lost their last 2 games in overtime to Notre Dame and St. John's, two respectable Big East teams.
What will be troubling for Jay Wright is that DePaul plays the same up-tempo style that saw Providence sweep the season-series while forcing Villanova into 40+ turnovers. DePaul boasts 5 players averaging at least 1 steal per game, so the potential for another turnover festival is definitely there. If Villanova is to right the ship, the main focus has to be handling the ball with care and not committing silly mistakes that can lead to game-changing shifts in momentum.
The other concern for 'Nova is fatigue. As he's done in previous seasons, Jay Wright is beginning to shorten his bench and we saw some signs against PC, especially from Yarou, that the Wildcats can get gassed from high pressure. DePaul's deep rotation will likely have the same effect and Wright will need to put more trust in players like Achraf Yacoubou and Maurice Sutton to help ease the burden on the starters.
DePaul's offense runs through 2 players - Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young. Melvin, despite DePaul's struggles, has consistently been an impressive performer in the Big East, and last year scored 19 points against the Wildcats. Melvin can knock it down from outside and play inside as well, as evidenced by his 16.5 ppg and 7.9 rpg line thus far.
Brandon Young was DePaul's leading scorer in last year's meeting with 22 points, and finds himself leading his team in scoring this season 16.6 ppg and 4.4 apg. While not a deadeye sniper from the outside, Young is definitely a volume shooter as he's averaged over 12 shots per game in the past 2 seasons.
Where Villanova appears to have a big advantage is on the interior with Mouphtaou Yarou, Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston. Donnavan Kirk and Derrell Robertson Jr. are the only Blue Demons playing significant minutes in a 9 man rotation that are taller than 6'6". Villanova's game plan has consistently featured pounding the ball inside - expect more of the same Tuesday night.
If Villanova has postseason expectations this season, this is a must-win game, and should be treated as such by players, coaches and fans alike. A loss would certainly end any hope of an NCAA Tournament bid, and would likely begin to place some question marks on an NIT resume as well.