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Preview: #3 Villanova Wildcats vs. Providence Friars

The ‘Cats continue their conference slate and welcome Ed Cooley’s squad to the Main Line

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Providence Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Villanova Wildcats are back in action this Saturday at the Finn as they will take on the Providence Friars. The game was recently moved from 7:00 pm to 2:30 pm so be sure to update your schedules accordingly. The Friars have not won at Villanova since 2013.

Villanova is coming off a close win against Seton Hall - a game that marked the ‘Cats first bit of action in nearly a month due to lingering COVID-19 issues within the program. However, Jay Wright’s team barely skipped a beat in taking down a tough and talented Pirates team.

As for the Friars, they are coming off their best win of the season - a 74-70 win at #11 Creighton. Providence has been up and down all season with this recent win halting a three-game conference losing streak (two of the games lost by a total of 3 points). The Friars presently sit at a mediocre 8-6 and 4-4 in the Big East - smack dab in the middle of the conference.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

So, what can Villanova expect as the Friars look for another upset?

Well, to start, Providence comes in with talented guard David Duke and center Nate Watson.

Wildcat fans are obviously familiar with Duke - a former Jay Wright recruit - now an experienced junior in Ed Cooley’s program. Duke is having a great year so far - averaging 19.4 points per game on scorching 45% from deep. Duke tallies over 37 minutes per game and leads the conference in %min. Last year, Villanova managed to hold Duke to just 14 points over two games - something they will likely have to replicate.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

As for Nate Watson, the 6’10 senior center is on a tear right now coming off of a 29 point performance against #11 Creighton. Watson is averaging over 19 points a game and 7 rebounds. He bullies opposing players in the post and has the footwork and finesse to consistently get into position under the basket. Fresh off of having to battle Seton Hall’s big bodies, the ‘Cats will have their hands full with Watson down low.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Seton Hall Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Friars’ offense this year is vastly improved from last season where it ranked 75th in KenPom. As such, last season Providence relied on its top-30 defense to muddy up games and create turnovers. This year, Providence presently sits 35th in AdjO but is sub-90 in AdjD - nearly a complete 180. The team rarely generates turnovers, blocks shots, or nabs defensive rebounds. The Friars’ defensive philosophy appears to be to hunker down until it’s over and then try to recover the points on the other end.

Overall, this appears on paper to be a favorable match-up for the ‘Cats given their potent offense. Villanova, the 3rd ranked offense in KenPom, is presently top-40 in both 2P% and 3P%. While the ‘Cats defense is still improving, it will need to be solid enough to contain Providence while the offense does the heavy lifting. As with any Big East game, unpredictable things happen - especially with a Providence team coming off an impressive upset win against Creighton and with players like Duke and Watson on the floor.

The game tips off Saturday at 2:30 pm EST on FOX. Go ‘Cats.