Villanova rarely loses, especially against conference opponents. Since the inception of the Big East, the Wildcats have only lost to one team twice in one season: Doug McDermott's Creighton Bluejays.
In order to continue this impressive streak, the Wildcats must exact their revenge on the Friars tomorrow. How can Jay Wright & Co. ensure that they will leave "The Dunk" with a victory?
Frontcourt health still in question.
Daniel Ochefu and Ben Bentil, two of the most prolific big men in the country, are facing injuries. It's unlikely that Ochefu will play; he is listed as "doubtful" as of this morning. There's a better chance, however, that Bentil's ankle recovers by tomorrow and the Wildcats are faced with a matchup nightmare.
It is imperative for Providence that Bentil plays; in the Friars' win last month, Bentil dropped a monstrous 31 points and 13 rebounds, outplaying his lottery counterpart, Kris Dunn. Bentil is arguably the most improved player in the country and his tenacity in the paint has helped propel Providence into the top 25 for much of the season.
While the Friars have struggled without Bentil, the Wildcats have proved they can excel even without their star big man. Against an underrated Creighton team, Darryl Reynolds started and dominated the boards with 13 rebounds - a career high. Reynolds is finally looking comfortable for the first time in his Villanova career and is doing so at exactly the right time. Especially if Bentil plays and Ochefu doesn't (the most likely scenario), Reynolds will face the biggest test of his career.
It is possible to contain Kris Dunn.
It sounds nearly impossible, but the Wildcats did a phenomenal job on National Player of the Year candidate Kris Dunn in their first matchup. In 43 minutes, Dunn only recorded 13 points, added 6 turnovers, and fouled out. Yes, he made huge shots down the stretch and led both teams with 14 assists, but Villanova still contained Dunn for, say, 35-40 minutes of the game.
What is Jay Wright's secret? We saw a preview of how the Wildcats will defend Dunn in the Creighton game. Wright continued to switch assignments on the Jays' prolific point guard, Mo Watson Jr. Ryan Arcidiacono started the game guarding Watson, but Phil Booth, Josh Hart, and Mikal Bridges all took turns defending the elite guard.
Following the loss to Providence, Wright said that he would like to have seen Hart guarding Dunn more. Expect to see Villanova use the length and size of Hart and Bridges on Dunn throughout this game, especially if Bentil is a no-go.
Who steps up?
Throughout this stretch without Ochefu, multiple players have stepped up. While Reynolds is the most obvious example, the play of Jalen Brunson was particularly encouraging against Creighton. Brunson's numbers and overall comfort-level appeared to decline to start conference play, but Brunson's shooting stroke looked smooth against Creighton (he shot 4-6 from downtown).
The Wildcats are also patiently awaiting a breakout game from Phil Booth, who has been consistently solid but didn't quite make the leap many thought he would entering the season. He needs to attack the basket more to get his game back on track. If he does, Booth could be the piece that puts this team over the top.