Villanova returns to action on Saturday night, at 8:00 p.m., to take on Baker Dunleavy’s Quinnipiac Bobcats at the Wells Fargo Center. Villanova opened the Finneran Pavilion in style Tuesday in a 100-77 win against Morgan State that saw Jay Wright go eleven deep and experiment with his new group. Much of the same can be expected Saturday against a lowly Quinnipiac team.
Quinnipiac University is a relatively small Connecticut school that plays in the MAAC Conference. The team is coached by ex-Villanova Assistant Baker Dunleavy, who left Villanova to start his (hopefully) long career as a successful head coach. Like Jay Wright, Dunleavy is starting from the bottom in hopes of reaching the top (s/o Drake).
In his first season at the helm, Dunleavy and the Bobcats finished 12-21 (7-11 in conference) good for 7th in the MAAC. Their most notable win came against UMass (I guess?) but the team made a spirited run to the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament before losing to Fairfield. KenPom ranked last year’s team at 280th in the country, and despite a difficult first campaign, the athletic department extended Dunleavy through the 2022-23 season and gave the coach a vote of confidence.
2017-18 Quinnipiac Team Stats
The 2018-19 Bobcats start the season ranked 236th and, according to KenPom, project to go 14-15 and 8-10 in conference. Overall, Quinnipiac is a very poor shooting team that turns the ball over a lot and does not create many second chance opportunities. That is definitively not the recipe for success.
As for general principles of play — As you might expect from a Jay Wright disciple, the Bobcats take a lot of threes. Last season, the team ranked 8th in the country three-pointers attempted rate with 47.9% of their shots taken from downtown (Villanova finished 11th). For what its worth, Dunleavy didn’t have much to work with on the interior, as Quinnipiac’s tallest player is 6’8” and no player on the roster is listed as a center.
The team is led by 6’6” guard/forward Cameron Young, who averaged 18.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. The graduate swingman was relied on heavily to create offense, using 29.9% of available possessions for shots but only converting 42.2% from the floor and 30.3% from three. Young is adept at drawing fouls, ranking 29th in the nation last season, and shoots a respectable 75.4% from the stripe.
While the third and fifth leading scorers from last season’s team have graduated, Quinnipiac returns now-sophomores Rich Kelly and Jacob Rigoni. Kelly, a 6’1” guard, took more than half his shots from three, converting 31.7% from deep. Rigoni, on the other hand, was a far more efficient scorer, leading the team in three point makes and percentage, while also shooting 45.9% from the floor. Beyond these two and Cameron Young, there isn’t much for the Wildcats to fret over.
Defending Quinnipiac starts with limiting Cameron Young. The grad swingman has an inside-outside game Wildcat defenders will have to respect. Switching every ball-screen on defense should help to mitigate Young’s effectiveness, and having him settle for off-the-bounce threes and long twos is ideal. The rest of the offense is looking to bomb, so Villanova defenders will need to close down space and force contested looks.
Offensively, Eric Paschall, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and Lebron James/Kevin Durant hybrid Saddiq Bey should feast on an undersized Quinnipiac front line. Villanova guards will have no issue creating separation either, so there will be plenty of driving lanes and good looks to go around.
The outcome of this game should not be in question. Villanova has the size, talent and home court advantage over the Bobcats, so the focus will be less on the end result and more on how VU got there. What will be in question is the rotation. Jay Wright auditioned all of his new pieces Tuesday night and we should expect something similar on Saturday with many of the new and old faces intermingled in curious combinations.
This will be Villanova’s last dress rehearsal before it faces a 19th-ranked Michigan team in a Championship rematch. Look for the ‘Cats to take better care of the ball and take control of the game early this Saturday en route to a comfortable win.