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Villanova Basketball vs St. Joseph’s Hawks Preview

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The Wildcats look to keep their Big Five win streak alive in the Holy War against a high-powered St. Joe’s offense.

NCAA Basketball: Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Following a hard-fought victory against an feisty Temple Owls team, the Villanova Wildcats welcome Saint Joseph’s, and their undying and unceasingly flapping Hawk, to the Pavilion for a 2:00 p.m. afternoon Saturday tip.

The Saint Joseph’s Hawks enter Saturday with a 5-4 record, elevating from parity on Wednesday with a win over Princeton. The Hawks have played a competitive schedule thus far, beating the likes of Wake Forest at the Myrtle Beach Invitational but losing on the road at West Virginia. The team played Temple close at home in Big Five play, ultimately falling 77-70.

St. Joseph’s 2018-19 Team Stats

Season PTS/G Opp PTS/G FG% 3P% FT%
Season PTS/G Opp PTS/G FG% 3P% FT%
2018-2019 79.6 76.1 44.2% 38.9% 72.0%
NCAA Rank 88 268 208 46 109

What jumps off the page when looking at the Hawks is their efficiency from beyond the arc. St. Joe’s ranks 46th in three point shooting, connecting at a 38.9% clip. As you might expect, the team isn’t averse to shooting from distance either, taking 42.6% of their shots from three, good for 88th in the country. Despite their somewhat inefficient shooting from inside the arc, the Hawks’ proficiency from deep vaults the team to 56th in the country in offensive efficiency.

So far, St. Joe’s has had to rely on offense to pull out wins, and when the shots don’t fall, the team struggles to slow down its opponent. The Hawks are content conceding a lot of threes, ranking 306th. With teams hitting 38.2% of their shots from deep, the Hawks find themselves among College Basketball’s worst in opponent true shooting (307th) and offensive rating (303rd).

Schematically, the Hawks are running a spread around a single big in the half court, pinging the ball around the arc while keeping the pace slow. Four of St. Joe’s five leaders in minutes take more than three threes and no player averages more than 3.6 assists per game, with four players averaging more than 2.5. The Hawks run a short rotation, with six players playing over 20 minutes and only one other logging more than 10 per game.

Defensively, Coach Phil Martelli has his group switching between man and zone defenses, likely in an effort to confuse opponents. Neither system has worked all that effectively, with the zone frequently leading to open looks from three.

The scoring load is handled by Charlie Brown, a sophomore wing from Philly. Brown’s numbers are as impressive as it gets through eight games — The forward averages 23.4 points on just 13.6 shots per game, shooting 54.1% from the floor, 52.2% from three (!!) and 80.4% from the line. The volumes are all there too, with Brown taking 5.8 threes and getting to the line for 7.0 free throws per game. However, the 6’6” Philly native averages 0.8 assists per game with only a 4.5% assist rate, so look for Villanova to throw some more aggressive traps at Brown to force him into mistakes.

After Brown, junior guard Lamarr Kimble averages 17.5 points per game and gets up his share of shots having the ball in his hands more often. The Neumann-Goretti HS product has been effective from two, shooting 49.2%, but has struggled thus far from three, shooting 30.4% on 5.8 attempts per game. Freshman Jared Bynum and sophomore Taylor Funk round out the weapons for the Hawks. The freshman point guard is playing very well so far in big minutes, sporting an impressive 4.5 assist to turnover ratio. Funk, meanwhile, is a 6’9” forward who takes 5.6 threes per game and hits at a 42.2% rate. Beyond this big four, the Hawks have no other player averaging more than six points per game.

Villanova has been steadily improving as a defensive unit since its two game skid, and St. Joe’s will be another challenging test of the Wildcats’ progress. ‘Nova has been successful running its opposition off the three point line, but St. Joe’s will want to get up its fair share of threes. As they say, something’s got to give.

On offense, Villanova is still finding out a lot about itself, and that’s about as charitable as I can be. Getting a Hawks’ team that has trouble stopping the long ball should help the Wildcats. Expect Villanova’s game plan to look similar offensively to what was on display against Oklahoma State, where the ‘Cats put up 40 threes, a majority of them good looks. If the struggles from deep continue, Villanova could be in for another tense affair.

Undoubtedly this St. Joe’s team is more offensively potent than recent iterations, but they look to be one or two years away from competing at the top of the A-10 Conference. The Wildcats, playing at home, should be able to overwhelm the Hawks Saturday and, in the words of Josh Hart, keep their tradition of whooping the Big Five’s asses going strong.