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Big East Semi-Final Preview: Villanova vs. Xavier

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Villanova take on Xavier as they attempt to advance to Saturday’s Big East Tournament Final at MSG

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

After a thriller against Creighton, capped off by a big-time block to close out the game, Xavier advanced to face off against Villanova in the Big East Semi-Finals. The Wildcats look to stay undefeated against the Blue Jays, while Xavier looks to send the reigning National Champions packing. Game time is at 6:30 EST on FS1.

Key Players and Matchups

In order to advance, Villanova needs to dominate a few key matchups. First, Saddiq Bey cannot get in early foul trouble like he did against Providence. Villanova needs his 10.5% Total Rebounding and 57.3 eFG% to keep the floor spaced against a slightly faster Xavier team, as well as keep Xavier rebounding guard Naji Marshall off the boards.

Second, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree is going to have his hands full with Tyrique Jones down low, who recovers 19.8% of all available defensive rebounds. Keeping him neutralized on the glass will allow some key second chance opportunities for Villanova offensively, and could help steer them to victory.

Lastly, Collin Gillespie and Phil Booth need to exploit the high turnover percentage of Quentin Goodin (20.5%). If they can get in the face of one of Xavier’s floor generals, they can force some key turnovers and help create some classic Villanova transition buckets.

Playing Styles

As previously mentioned, Xavier is a slightly faster team. They rank 289th in the nation in pace of play, as opposed to Villanova’s 325th. In their prior matchups this season, Xavier has really controlled the pace of play. With two ball dominant teams playing, it may be difficult for Villanova to try and control the game.

Based on what was seen in the previous game, Xavier high hedged the Creighton pick and rolls (meaning that when a screen came, the defender on the screen tried to push up on the ball handler). If the screen setters for Villanova can recognize this and slip the screen before contact, the ball handler can find him open towards the basket as his defender is out of position. It will require some presence of mind that Villanova seemed to lack all season, but they might surprise everyone tomorrow.

Xavier also allowed a lot of middle penetration on close outs, which did not show up against Villanova last time. If it shows up tomorrow, look for Booth, Paschall, Samuels, or Bey to get to the rim. Look for these two keys tomorrow and see if either can help Villanova survive until Saturday.