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Preview: #17 Villanova Wildcats vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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‘Cats are back at the beach to take on the Bulldogs

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Villanova Wildcats are back in action this afternoon as they take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-0) in the second round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

The ‘Cats were clicking on all cylinders in a 98-69 win over the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders but the Bulldogs will be a much tougher match-up for a team looking to string some impressive games together. Let’s take a quick look at some things to watch for in advance of today’s 2:30 p.m. tip-off.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

To start, the Bulldogs are young with just three upperclassman clocking minutes on the season (sound familiar?). The team has six freshman in the rotation and, beyond senior Tyson Carter, not a single upperclassman knocks in more than 5 points a game.

The Bulldogs, ranked #57 overall in KenPom, come in at #54 and #60 in AdjO and AdjD, respectively. The team’s strength is that it is ruthlessly efficient under the basket and inside the perimeter. Shooting nearly 60% in 2P% as a team, they maintain a sub-300 pace and limit possessions for the opposition. The Bulldogs tally just over 73 points a game and will challenge the Wildcats to make the most of every offensive trip. Unlike yesterday, when Middle Tennessee helped the Wildcats with some quick airmail shots on offense, the Bulldogs are much more measured and meticulous. Mississippi State will work the ball, will shift the defense, and will rarely settle for a bad shot.

The Bulldogs’ offense is led by senior guard Tyson Carter. The 6’4 guard is presently averaging 16.4 points per game on a neat 52% shooting from the field. He is also shooting 38% from three on over 6 attempts a game. He is a strong facilitator but prone to turnovers if the ‘Cats can disrupt his game.

Carter is joined by 6’10 sophomore forward Reggie Perry and 6’3 freshman guard Iverson Molinar. Perry is adept at getting to the rim, shooting 65% from the inside, and is presently averaging 10 rebounds a game. Molinar is coming off a 21 point performance against Tulane that helped boost his average on the season to just over 11 points per game.

Liberty v Mississippi State Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Today’s game will present a strong challenge to a Wildcat team looking to put up some back-to-back wins. Although young, Mississippi State is disciplined and efficient, two characteristics that could spell disaster for the Wildcats if they are not matched possession for possession. Yesterday, Villanova sliced and diced Middle Tennessee with crisp passing, off the ball movement, and lights out shooting. However, the pace of play (dictated in part by Middle Tennessee’s top-10 quickest offense) facilitated the Wildcats’ onslaught and the game was over before it began. Today, it will be interesting to see whether the Wildcats try to push the pace against a slow Mississippi State team or settle into a slogfest.

The game tips off at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2.