The Villanova Wildcats will head to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey this Saturday to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic. The event will help raise support for the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund , an organization that provides scholarships to the children of 9/11 victims. It will also feature a match-up of fellow Pennsylvania schools Pitt and Penn State.
Villanova fans are very familiar with the Irish as former members of the Big East, but the two haven’t faced off since Notre Dame’s departure in 2013. That means it’s the first meeting between the two for all the players on both rosters. Here’s three things to watch for as these teams face off this weekend.
Villanova has started off three seasons 10-0 under Jay Wright, now in his 16th year as head coach. His counterpart and former Big East colleague, Mike Brey, has yet to accomplish that feat in his previous 16 years as head coach of the Irish. But now, both teams head into Saturday’s game with records of 9-0, and only one of them will remain undefeated.
For each program, this game will be a good bench mark for their development this season. A win for either side would be a resume builder for March and a confidence boost as they both will face elite teams in conference play. A loss wouldn’t be terrible, but it would likely expose some flaws that have been masked by the early season winning streaks.
This game will be a homecoming for Notre Dame starters Steve Vasturia and Matt Farrell, both of whom came from the Garden State. Those familiar with Philadelphia high school basketball will remember Vasturia from his days at St. Joe’s Prep, while Farrell is from Bridgewater, not too far from the Prudential Center. Both are a big part of Notre Dame’s early success.
Farrell, the starting point guard, leads the team in assists while shooting a perfect 24-24 from the line this season. While doing much of the ball handling, he averages under 2 turnovers per game, a big reason why the Irish have the lowest turnover percentage in the country.
Vasturia is the team’s sharp shooter, scoring over 16 PPG, including shooting over 46% from behind the arc. He’s also an excellent free throw shooter, at 96% on the season. Similar to Mikal Bridges, he uses his long wingspan to disrupt passing lanes and leads the team in steals. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two matched up with each other for most of the game.
Hart vs. Colson
It’s great when the two best players from each team get matched up with each other, especially when it’s two undefeated, ranked teams. Josh Hart has emerged as one of the front runners for Player of the Year, and is averaging 17.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, all of which lead undefeated Villanova. But Bonzie Colson is putting up similar numbers on an undefeated team, although he’s receiving considerably less national attention. He’s averaging a double-double with 17.1 points and 11.1 rebounds, while adding in 2 assists.
While both players are 6’5, Hart’s game tends to have a little more finesse. He’s a better shooter who can also spin and dip his way through traffic, using his speed to get to the basket or kick out to his teammates. Colson has an extra 10 lbs on Hart, and his game is a bit more powerful, using his size to create space in the lane or behind the arc. It should be a great match-up to watch and could decide the winner of the game.