We have finally made it to the first Big East conference game for the Villanova Wildcats at the Wells Fargo Center, where the 'Cats have managed to win as many games as the woeful Philadelphia 76ers in the past year. They will be taking on the tough Providence Friars who are led by arguably the best player in college basketball, Kris Dunn. Here are 3 things to look for during the game:
How will the 'Cats slow down Dunn and Bentil?
Both of the Friars' stars score over 17 points per game, and the team only has one other player (Rodney Bullock) who scores in double-figures. Kris Dunn looks to not only be a National Player of the Year candidate but also a future lottery pick in the NBA draft, largely because of his well-game and exceptional athletic talent.
Ben Bentil in his own right is a very dangerous player at 6'9" and capable of stretching the defense with his shooting ability in addition to his tough low-post game. Expect Wright to run a slew of different players out at Dunn to keep his defense fresh against the All-American, while it will be important for Daniel Ochefu to avoid foul trouble against Bentil.
The Wildcats have had some success recently in slowing Dunn down, but it has never happened when he had such a formidable running mate in the frontcourt. Even if they both manage to score their share of points, the Wildcats certainly would hope those points come as hard-earned and inefficiently as possible.
Might we see more of the zone?
On paper, this would appear to be a very good matchup for the Wildcats to use their steadily improving zone defense. The Friars have only connected on 30.7% of their 3-point shot attempts this season as a team - and just Dunn, Kyron Cartwright and Ryan Fazekas are hitting at a rate greater than 35%. Jalen Lindsey is a capable shooter as well, but suffering through a horrible season.
With that in mind, it would behoove Villanova in to forcing the Friars to make jumpers - they're at their most dangerous when Dunn gets penetration and can dish to Bentil and Bullock.
Can Hart continue to carry 'Nova?
We all knew Josh Hart was a very good player from his first two seasons at Villanova, but recently he has taken his play to a whole new level. In the first 6 games of conference play, Hart has averaged 16.5 points and 7 rebounds per game while shooting just under 60% from the floor. He has also routinely played active defense, forcing turnovers and guarding many of the opposition's top scorers.
Hart has looked not only like a first team all-Big East performer lately, but a possible Player of the Year candidate. When the going gets tough, it brings the best out of Hart. With another tough foe in town, Villanova will need Hart to step in to the spotlight again and be the leader of this team.