The Villanova Wildcats and Creighton Bluejays last met on New Year’s Eve, and in the time since the injury bug has bitten both teams. Villanova is still likely to be without Darryl Reynolds, and the Jays are just 4-5 since Maurice Watson went down with a knee injury.
Creighton just isn’t the same team without one of the best point guards in the country, but they’re plenty dangerous. Justin Patton is looking more and more like a lottery pick with each game and Marcus Foster can still go out and get you 25 points if you need him to.
It’s Senior Day at the Pavilion, the last time that Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds will play on campus. If that’s not enough emotion, the ‘Cats are coming off a loss and it is unlikely that they will overlook this game.
Here are three things to watch for:
How to defend Justin Patton
Even a healthy Reynolds struggled the first time around as Patton punished Villanova with 18 points on 9-12 shooting. He’s athletic, runs the floor well, and has the type of length that can cause problems for Villanova’s small-ball lineup interior.
Will we see Dylan Painter helping to control the paint in a zone? Or will Jay Wright roll with his 6-man rotation and rely on Eric Paschall, Kris Jenkins and Mikal Bridges to take turns dealing with him?
Taking advantage of the Jays backcourt
Davion Mintz looks promising, but his performances stepping in for Watson have been shaky. Greg McDermott has turned to Isaiah Zierden in stretches as well, but Zierden isn’t a natural point guard.
Whoever he’s matched up against, Jalen Brunson should have a big advantage. He outplayed Watson on NYE, and now he gets the understudies.
Brunson has looked every part the 5-star recruit that had coaches gushing in recent weeks, and his stellar play will be key as we head into March.
Can Josh Hart get it going again?
Yes, Hart has been scoring. No, he hasn’t been all that efficient. As teams begin to deploy a better scouting report on him he’s needed more shots to make his usual offensive impact.
Now he’ll face Khyri Thomas, voted the best ball defender in the league by a panel of coaches (Hart and Bridges were the other two). Thomas won’t make it easy for Hart, who needs a couple of big performances to re-insert himself into the National Player of the Year race.