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Providence vs. Villanova preview: 3 things to consider

The Wildcats open a key road trip this week against the Friars at the 'Dunk'.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

This is it.

This is the week that matters.

The Wildcats head into tomorrow's game against Providence with a mere 1/2-game lead in the Big East Standings over Butler (who they'll face at Hinkle on Saturday). The Friars sit just 1.5 games back, and would love to make a statement against the big dog (or Cat) in the conference. The rematch will be in less than two weeks in Philly, but here's what you need to know right now:

Pack it in

The Friars are led offensively by LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn. Henton takes a higher percentage of shots when he's on the floor than any other player in the conference. Henton and Dunn are both capable slashers who get to the free throw line early and often. They're two of the Big East's biggest names and should certainly earn All-Conference honors.

But as a team, Providence really struggles from beyond the arc. They've made just 28.6% of their threes in-conference, good for last place. Villanova, meanwhile, is bombing away at a 38% clip, tops in the Big East. Turning a blind eye to potential cold streaks, it might be wise to shoot 'em up Wednesday night and force Providence to do the same.

Jump the passing lanes

Dunn is extremely adept with the ball in his hands, leading the entire country (2,189 qualifiers) in assist rate. Over 50% of Friar field goal makes come off of Dunn passes when he's out on the floor-- which is 90% of the time since New Year's Eve.

Kyon Cartwright is the team's backup point guard for when Dunn is off the floor and sees a decent amount of time at the 2 as well. He assists on 27% of the Friars' shots, giving Providence a solid 1-2 punch of sure-handed guards. It will be key for Villanova's defense to try and force some turnovers without overdoing it, as Dunn can easily break down a one-on-one matchup if the defense overcommits.

Role players

Providence's roster is set up similarly to Villanova's once you get past the two big guns. They have a team full of Josh Harts and Kris Jenkins's that are all able to step up if need be. Tyler Harris and Ben Bentil are almost never on the floor together but both provide decent size at the 4, but could be negated if Pinkston has a good game defensively.

It will be interesting to see how now-healthy Ed Cooley chooses to use starting center Carson Derosiers and secondary big man Paschal Chukwu. DeRosiers stands a mighty 7'0 250, while Chukwu is a lanky 7'2". Chukwu gets to the line at a higher rate per field goal than Pinkston does, so it could become a strategy to use him early and often to get the Villanova bigs in foul trouble and force Jenkins to spend time guarding Harris and Bentil. This just compounds the idea that Nova should pack it in on defense and not allow Providence to get inside.