After a road trip that included three games against teams that likely won’t make the NCAA Tournament, the Villanova Wildcats return to the Wells Fargo Center to take on the Providence Friars. Villanova currently sits alone atop the Big East, and a win Tuesday night would leave Xavier as the only other Big East team with less than three conference losses.
The Friars are on a four game winning streak that includes a victory over then #5 Xavier. If they can pull off the upset at Villanova, they would be in a three way tie with the ‘Cats and the Musketeers for first place. Here’s three things to watch for in the game.
The Friars are better than their record
Any conversation about teams that have injury troubles this year needs to include the Providence Friars. Only one of their starters has played in all 20 games this season, and a number of their stars have had to play through injuries. And that doesn’t even include losing Emitt Holt before the season even began. So I don’t think it would shock anyone to hear that four of their six losses have come with at least one of their starters out.
Now that their “healthy” again, Providence is averaging double digit wins over their four game winning streak. They’ll hope to channel the “snowed out” game from two years ago, their last win at Wells Fargo Center, when they travel to Philly this week.
Villanova isn’t the only team with options on offense
There’s no question that it’s hard to top a Villanova team that has five players averaging double digits on offense. But Providence has four players of their own that can light it up on any given night and are all averaging over 10 points per game.
Rodney Bullock is the team’s leading scorer at 16 PPG, and also leads the team in rebounds with 6.8 boards per game. Alpha Diallo is another attacking wing that’s putting up almost 12 points a night for the Friars. Kyron Cartwright may be just 5’11”, but he’s shooting over 46% from the floor and over 44% from deep. And if that wasn’t enough, they also have a sharp shooter in Jalen Lindsey who’s already made 50 three-pointers on the season.
Donte DiVincenzo has been referred to as the “sixth starter” for Villanova, being the first man off the bench and ranking Top 5 on the team in minutes. Well don’t look now, but the Michael Jordan of Delaware is getting better... fast.
Comparing his first 9 games to his last 10, he’s jumped from 11 PPG to 15 PPG and is now third on the team in scoring. He’s done it by improving his shooting efficiency across the board, and he’s making an average of almost 1.5 more baskets per game. He’s also upped his pregame totals in assists and steals, while averaging an extra rebound per game. DiVincenzo’s even reduced his turnovers and is committing 1.1 fewer fouls.
If all of this sounds familiar, you’re not wrong. It’s very similar to the jump in production Josh Hart saw his sophomore year.