There hasn't been a Big East game with this much hype since Doug McDermott was donning the Creighton blue and white, and Wednesday's game clash between Villanova and Xavier at the Cintas Center will surpass any of the hoopla that he ever created.
#1 Villanova is in Cincinnati looking to clinch at least a share of their third straight Big Eat regular season title, while the Musketeers just joined the Top 5 in the latest polls. If that wasn't enough, Xavier will be looking for revenge after they were humiliated in Philadelphia on New Year's Eve by Villanova.
It's the game of the year in the conference, and one of the best of the season in all of college basketball. Here's what to watch for:
Edmond Sumner's impact
Sumner was a non-factor in the first meeting due to a horrific fall that saw him stretched off the court just a couple of minutes in to the game. Nobody in the country was beating Villanova that afternoon, but Sumner's injury definitely shell-shocked the Musketeers and made it a laugher instead of just a dominant victory.
Just a (RS) freshman, Sumner has been the catalyst for Xavier's offensive explosion this year. His numbers (11.4 ppg, 3.2 apg) aren't going to wow you, but he is a big and athletic guard that provides a much different look than the steady Myles Davis at point guard. His ability to drive and either finish it himself or pass out of traffic will be a big boost for hte Musketeers.
Josh Hart vs. Trevon Bluiett
The best players on their respective teams should see plenty of time guarding each other and thus is THE matchup to watch on Wednesday night. Both are likely going to be on the All-Big East 1st Team when awards season hits.
After a quick two-game slump offensively, Hart got back on track in a big way against Butler, dropping 22 points and snaring 12 rebounds. His ability to score at all three levels, and add the dribble-drive to his arsenal has vaulted him in to the Big East Player of the Year conversation, and has landed him on the Midseason Wooden List as well.
Bluiett doesn't get the same hype as Hart, mostly because the #narrative on Xavier is their insane depth. Make no mistake though, he's another guy that can score from anywhere on the court and his outside shooting has improved dramatically in his sophomore season.
Can Chris Mack solve Jay Wright?
Chris Mack is one of the best young coaches in the country and is rightfully in the mix for National Coach of the Year. He's yet to figure out how to beat Villanova, however. In their six meetings within the last three seasons, the Wildcats have won by an average of over 17 points per game. Things have been closer at the Cintas Center (9.5 ppg average margin of defeat).
Whether it's scheme (the 1-3-1 zone has been bad against 'Nova), personnel (the Wildcats have had better players in recent years), or just plain bad luck (the Sumner injury), the Musketeers head honcho hasn't quite figured out how to beat Jay Wright. That's not anything to be ashamed of, but it's the final missing piece in Xavier's march to the elite of the Big East. With a sold-out and rabid Cintas Center waiting, Wednesday night represents his best chance to get the job done.