The Villanova Wildcats will look to remain atop the Big East standings as they take on the Providence Friars this Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. Nova is undefeated at home this season, including a 1-0 record in their second home in South Philly. After losing their first and only game of the season at Butler, the Cats have been on a 4 game winning streak during which they’re winning by an average of 20 points.
The Friars are coming off an 18 point win at Georgetown, their second victory in three days. Now with almost a week to prepare for the #1 team in the country, they’ll try to win back to back games at the Wells Fargo Center. Here are a few things to watch in tomorrow’s match-up.
Providence is one of the only teams in the country that’s starting five juniors this season. With no seniors on the team, these five are the true team leaders. Rodney Bullock has stepped up to become the team’s leading scorer (17.7 PPG) and rebounder (6.1 RPG). He’s joined in the frontcourt by Emmit Holt, the team’s second leading scorer (13.1 PPG). The pair are 6’8” and 6’7” respectively, so Villanova should match-up well with their own undersized frontcourt.
Like Villanova, the Friar’s backcourt is a combination of guards and wings. Kyron Catwright, who is dishing out 7.1 assists per game, creates shots for everyone else, but he can bust out a 20 point game if he needs to. Jalen Lindsey is the team’s sharpshooter, averaging 46.5% from behind the arc this season. Isaiah Jackson rounds out the starting five, but he’s more of a role player than a consistent contributor like the other four who all average over 10 PPG.
No Second Chances
Villanova has been fairly good on the defensive glass this season, ranking 31st nationally in defensive OR%. The Friars on the other hand, have not been able to overcome their size on the offensive glass, ranking 273rd nationally in offensive OR%. This, and the overall rebounding battle, are must wins for Villanova to walk away with the victory. Providence is not an especially good offensive team, so limiting their second chances should lead to a Wildcat Victory.
Overall, Villanova has been winning the rebounding battle this season. Their averaging 5.2 more rebounds than their opponents per game, and have grabbed exactly 100 more boards this season. The key has been the aggressive “gang rebounding” approach with wings and guards crashing the boards to help out the front court. The Cats have yet to lose a game this season when they win the battle on the glass.
Drive Time For Josh Hart
The biggest advantage Villanova will have on offense is inside the arc, where Providence is allowing its opponents to shoot 50% on the season. Their man defense has been susceptible to athletic guards who can drive the lane and finish strong at the rim. Remind you of anyone? Josh Hart, who had just 11 points in each of his last two games, should be in for a big day. Even if the Friars decide to key in on him with double teams, his assist numbers will go through the roof when he kicks out to open shooters.
Expect that the rest of the Cats will all likely have the same green light to attack the lane. This means that either the Friars will be committing more than their usual number of fouls while they try to contain Nova’s athleticism, or their going to see a very high number of open threes when the defense is forced to collapse. That means this could also be a big Kris Jenkins game. Or, you know, one of the other five guys on this team who can drive the lane and shoot from outside.