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Three Things To Watch For: Villanova vs. La Salle

Sunday’s matchup should provide another opportunity for the Wildcats to impress.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova vs La Salle Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Villanova Wildcats (9-0, 2-0 Big 5) return home this Sunday for a 1 p.m. game at the Wells Fargo Center against the La Salle Explorers (5-5, 2-0 Big 5).

Jay Wright is 14-2 all-time against La Salle, and the Wildcats are looking to continue their current undefeated season.

The Explorers have lost five of their last seven games entering their match up against the undisputed, defending Big 5 champs.

Here are three things to watch for on Sunday:

Big shooting from the Wildcats

The Wildcats have already shown their outstanding scoring capabilities this season, shooting 50 percent overall and a respectable 41 percent from the three. Boasting one of the top offenses in terms of efficiency—according to KenPom—the Wildcats have been a well-oiled machine, especially since their time at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Villanova has done well so far, averaging just over 86 points per game—among the top 30 in the country. However, its recent work over the last three games has been phenomenal.

The same can’t really be said for the Explorers. La Salle, on the other hand, has averaged 67 points per game. The Explorers’ shooting has been fairly inconsistent. While the team shot 49 percent against Temple, against Miami they were only shooting 28 percent on the floor and a staggering 0-for-15 from the three.

In just the last two games, the ‘Cats have had standout performances. Against St. Joes, the team made 19 threes, a new program record and a feat that was only two away from the NCAA record. Mikal Bridges is additionally coming off a 28 point career-high performance against Gonzaga.

Sunday’s matchup should provide another opportunity for the Wildcats to impress.

Dynamic Duos

So far this season, both the Wildcats and Explorers have both been lead by pair of players. The Explorers look to former transfers B.J. Johnson and Pookie Powell, while the Wildcats lean on Jalen Brunson, and Mikal Bridges.

Brunson and Bridges have been playing at an elite level to begin the season, and both look like they can be All-Americans if they continue their play. Bridges averages a team-high 19.0 points per game, while Brunson isn’t too far behind with 17.2 per game. Both are shooting above 60 percent from inside the arc and over 50 percent beyond it.

For the Explorers, Johnson stands far above his teammates with 21.5 points per game and 9.4 rebounds. The second-year Explorer that transferred in from Syracuse has yet to score in single digits, and has also reached 20+ points in seven of La Salle’s 10 games this season. As for Powell, he follows with 15.7 points per game. He gave Villanova fits when they met last season.

While there’s a decent match up between the team’s leaders, four players don’t show the whole story. Behind La Salle’s the top two players, no one else averages in double figures, a massive drop off. The Wildcats’ roster carries four more players who average more than nine points a game. Despite the team leaders, Villanova has the clear advantage in depth.

Shoot ‘em up...

When Villanova met La Salle last year in the Palestra, Villanova beat La Salle, 89-79, a much closer game than the blowout a year before. The Wildcats’ depth should wear down the Explorers. Aside from that, Villanova loves to shoot the three, an area that La Salle isn’t particularly great at defending. The perimeter isn’t kind to the Explorers on offense, and defensively, they allow opponents to knock down just under 40 percent of their takes from deep (good for 303rd in the country.)

If Villanova heats up again, this can be a long day for La Salle. Tune in Sunday to see if the Explorers are up for the challenge.