The #10 Xavier Musketeers will visit Philadelphia on Wednesday night to take on the #1 Villanova Wildcats. The Musketeers are coming off of a loss at Providence this past weekend while Villanova will play its second straight game at the Wells Fargo Center, having defeated Marquette there Saturday night.
Xavier got smoked by a hot Arizona State team earlier this season but has rattled off wins against a strong Cincinnati team, a floundering Wisconsin, and respectable Baylor and Northern Iowa squads. However, they struggled with DePaul at home, ultimately winning by five, and squeaked by East Tennessee State and Marshall by a combined six points. So, what can be expected when the Muskrats hit the court in Philly?
Here are three things to watch for:
The Musketeers are led by seniors Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura. Prior to this season, Bluiett was selected to the preseason All-Big East First Team and named to the Julius Erving Award watchlist. The 6’6 Guard is averaging 19.4 points per game. While the Musketeers aren’t known as a 3-point shooting team, Bluiett will let it fly and is averaging nearly 42% from deep this year. However, since conference play began, Bluiett is shooting just 35% from the floor and has been in a recent slump. Macura, who has made headlines a number of times this season, is averaging 13.1 points per game on 48% shooting. After the upperclassman, Xavier relies on sophomore point guard Quentin Goodin, who is currently shooting 51% from two and dishing out nearly 6 assists a game.
Deep and Balanced
Beyond the two seniors, Xavier is an extremely balanced team, with six other players averaging over 7 points in 15+ minutes. Throw in Paul Scruggs, who chips in 3 points a game, and you have a 9-man rotation. This could prove to be a challenge for a Villanova team trying to tread water with essentially a 6-man rotation until the injured Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels return. Six of Villanova’s players are averaging over 25 minutes a game. We’ve debated ad nauseum whether a short rotation would bite Villanova at this point in the season and this Top 10 match-up against a deep team might answer our questions.
Fast and the Furious
As noted, if Villanova has a weakness right now, it’s healthy bodies. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, Xavier’s style of play is the perfect type to exploit a thin line-up. The Muskies like to play fast and shoot even faster. Xavier has an average time of possession of just over 15 seconds and rank in the KenPom top 50 in adjusted tempo. They like to play fast and typically look to dish the ball inside or push the pace in transition to draw fouls. Xavier relies primarily on its two-point shooting and scores nearly a quarter of its points from the charity stripe. With a shorter rotation, Villanova will have to be smart on defense, especially in transition, to avoid early foul trouble.
The game tips at 8:00 on Wednesday night on FoxSports 1.