The Villanova Wildcats, fresh off of dunkin' Providence at the Dunk, return to Philadelphia for their final Wells Fargo Center game of the season as they take on the Red Storm of St. John's on Saturday night. Three weeks ago, the 'Cats defeated the Johnnies in Madison Square Garden behind 19 points from Donte DiVincenzo. Beyond that, it was game to forget for the Wildcats with seniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins going a combined 5-23 (1-10 from Smoove) from the field, 3-13 from deep, and playing sporadic minutes with 4 fouls a piece.
The Johnnies are coming off a 14-point win over Marquette and narrowly lost on the road to Xavier just a week ago. They also beat Syracuse by 33 points this year. Thirty-three. That being said, the Red Storm sit 6th in the Big East at 11-13 and have been wildly inconsistent all year. They have raw athleticism, as Villanova saw in the first half at MSG, but can lose control quickly. Villanova will want to establish command, keep the wheels moving, and wrap this one up early.
Here are a few things to watch for this Saturday night:
Big Frosh in a Small Pond(s)
Shamorie Ponds, the talented 6'1 freshman, leads that Johnnies with 17.6 points per game. On Monday, Ponds was named the Big East Freshman of the Week (for the fourth time this season) after averaging 22.5 points in a win against Providence and the narrow loss to Xavier. Against the Muskies, Ponds put up 16 in the second half and led a double digit comeback for St. John's before they ultimately fell short. Ponds likes the spotlight and, while Villanova held him in control earlier this season, he has the potential to go off and score in spurts.
The Johnnies have a dynamic backcourt with Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, both of whom love to quicken the pace and get out in transition. The Johnnies like to run. Their athleticism, combined with their ability to create turnovers (see below), makes them a dangerous opponent for a team like Villanova that likes to play a more measured pace (practically out of necessity). LoVett, the 6'0 RS Freshman, averages 16.9 points a game and is currently shooting 43% from deep.
Big Apple Turnover(s) ©
The Red Storm rank first in the Big East in creating turnovers and, coming off a game at Providence where the Wildcats committed 15 turnovers, that could spell disaster for a 'Nova team that has had difficulty putting teams away. With limited ball handlers and a short bench, Villanova will need to protect the basketball and avoid a scenario wherein St. John's is able to create turnovers on defense and run the Wildcats into the ground in transition. Despite having 7 turnovers on Wednesday, Jalen Brunson averages just over 2 turnovers a game. Brunson will have to come up big (again) to set the tone against a frenetic St. John's defense.