Wouldn’t you know it, Villanova’s rise back to the elite of college basketball has coincided with a recent dominance in this series. The ‘Cats have won the last three meetings by double-digits, and eight of the last ten overall.
The all-time series sits at 47-25 in Villanova’s favor, and this Saturday they’ll look to extend that lead. Here are three things to watch for:
The backcourt battle
With Phil Booth’s status up in the air, the Wildcats may operate with a short bench yet again. Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo will likely get a ton of run against the Hawks’ duo of Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr ‘Fresh’ Kimble.
Newkirk (21.8/4.7/4.4) and Kimble (14.3/4.2/4.5) make the Hawks go. Newkirk has been scorching hot to open the season (47.8% 3FG), but Kimble has been doing it more on volume (14.5 FGA/game, 35.6% FG).
Forcing these two into bad shots will provide a big boon to another ‘Cats blowout in this series.
No, not in talent. But Phil Martelli has crafted a roster that utilizes a lot of guards and wings at the expense of raw size down low. In addition to Newkirk and Kimble, we’ll see plenty of Chris Clover (6’3”), James Demery, Charlie Brown, Brendan Casper, Nick Robinson (6’6”) and Markell Lodge (6’7”).
Javon Baumann (6’8”) is the only forward who plays heavy minutes, with Jai William (6’9”) playing in a deep reserve role so far this season.
Villanova has struggled against size this season in the Purdue and UCF games, but not much else. And St. Joseph’s (Pa.) isn’t exactly a stout defensive group. It could be a big offensive day for ‘Nova.
Can Eric Paschall break out of his slump?
After a 17-point outburst against Western Michigan, Paschall has struggled in four straight games. He hasn’t hit double-digits in scoring and worse yet, he’s struggled shooting from the field even though he’s gotten plenty of attempts.
These rivalry games can get the juices flowing, so Paschall will need to avoid pressing and play a collected game. If he does that, he should have some favorable matchups to take advantage of.