#18 Villanova Wildcats (10-1) vs. Providence Friars (7-6)
When: Saturday, December 30, 2017, at 1 p.m.
Where: Alumni Hall, Providence, R.I.
Coverage: Big East Digital Network/Fox Sports Go
Providence's Previous Season Record: 12-18
Key Players for the Friars: #11 Jovana Nogic (6-1) Sr., G; #21 Maddie Jolin (5-9) Jr., G; #23 Clara Che (5-8) Jr., G
There's no real secret when it comes to dissecting the Friars. At the forefront of it all is senior wing Jovana Nogic, who is affectionately known as "Yoyo". Nogic is a dynamic talent, a scoring machine, one that can take over games and change the tide when she starts to heat up. Yoyo has scored over 20 points in almost half of Providence's games this season and was leading the Big East in scoring—until hitting a road block in the previous game at Georgetown. She will look to bounce back from a measly five-point performance, which was the first time she had been held to single digits this season. Nogic is normally an electrifying scorer that can make shots from almost anywhere on the floor. She will definitely be an asset from long range, where she's shooting 41-for-106 (38.7 percent). She's on pace to catch and break her own record of 91 made three-pointers, a mark she set last season. Nogic is also capable of scoring inside and pulling up from mid-range. If she's fouled, she's almost a sure bet from the charity stripe, where she's converted on 41-of-44 attempts. As a 90 percent career free throw shooter, she's basically automatic.
However, it's far from being just all about Nogic. She's fantastic, but she has some solid pieces around her. In the Friars’ previous game, Maddie Jolin picked things up as Georgetown shut Nogic down. Jolin is a tough backcourt player that does a little of everything for the Friars. She's the second-highest scorer on the team, with 11.5 points per game. She's the only other Friar averaging in double figures. Jolin does most of her work from the three-point line, where she's drained 42.9 percent of her takes. Jolin is also a tough player on the boards and on defense. She leads the team in rebounds, despite only being 5-9. Aside from her, Clara Che is another sharpshooter to watch out for. Whether she comes off the bench or starts a game, she can be a dangerous shooter if left unguarded or unaccounted for while defenses gear up for Nogic and Jolin. She is shooting 45.8 percent from deep. This is Providence's core trio, but keep special note for Nogic and Jolin. They will be doing most of the damage and are the only threats from deep. Together, they have taken 224 of the team's 228 three-point shots. It's possible to sag off on the others at the perimeter, but not for these players.
Also keep an eye out for Ny-Asia Franklin and Chanell Williams. Franklin will get things going in the middle. A 6-foot-1 forward, Franklin is shooting 52.2 percent on the floor. She isn't a stellar rebounder but can quietly have a double-digit game. As for Williams, she's only a freshman, but she's proving to be a tough perimeter defender. Her scoring isn't there yet, but she'll work hard defensively.
Both teams are looking to bounce back and even things up at 1-1 for Big East play after they dropped their first conference game of the season on Thursday night. Villanova went ice cold in the second half and having key players in foul trouble didn't help its cause. Meanwhile, Providence was just given a wire-to-wire beatdown that started and ended poorly.
The Wildcats handled the Friars just fine in both meetings last season, and I think that should still be the case for Saturday.
Dominant forwards might give the 'Cats problems and while they had been able to manage in the first 10 games of the season, their weakness to the frontcourt players finally appeared. A dominant all-around scorer in Creighton's Audrey Faber and sharpshooting forward Jaylyn Agnew tormented the 'Cats. This time around, there are no skilled scoring frontcourt members. As talented as Providence's backcourt might be, the Wildcats seem to do very well when it comes to locking down on the perimeter and taking away high-scoring guards.
The Friars are primarily led by Nogic, Jolin, and Che (sometimes Franklin), three players that play very well at the perimeter. It's a similar dynamic to the potential All-American backcourt of Duke, the high-scoring guards of St. Joe's, and the core shooting trio of La Salle--teams that the Wildcats were able to beat. They dispatched and slowed down their threats, while doing the necessary work on offense to pull away and win. Something similar should unfold on Saturday. The 'Cats can do well against good perimeter-shooting teams.
Ideally, Adrianna Hahn, Alex Louin, and Kelly Jekot won't be in foul trouble again and help get the 'Cats going offensively, as well as assist in locking down the three-point line.