We are back with our quick schedule preview before conference play kicks off on Friday in Omaha. As always, we will have full and in-depth previews for each opponent as the games approach but right now let’s get a bird’s eye view of what awaits.
Head Coach: Greg McDermott (12th season)
Previous Season Record: 22-9, 14-6 Big East — Lost to Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen
Key Players: Shereef Mitchell, Ryan Kalkbrenner, Alex O’Connell
Key Departures: Mitchell Ballock, Marcus Zegarowski, Denzel Mahoney
New Additions: Rati Andronikashvili (hurt last year), Modestas Kancleris (hurt last year), Ryan Hawkins (transfer from Northwest Missouri State), Arthur Kaluma, Trey Alexander, Mason Miller, Ryan Nembhard, John Christofilis
Date: Friday, December 17, 8:00 p.m. (Omaha, Nebraska)
Preview: Put simply, Creighton is reloading after losing basically the entirety of last year’s Sweet Sixteen squad. McDermott has brought in a stellar freshman class (ranked 5th in the country) and the Bluejays are presently coming off an impressive win against #24 BYU. Creighton is led by 6’7 senior forward Ryan Hawkins, who is averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Ryan Nembhard is off to fast start - averaging 13.1 points per game on 44% from deep.
#22 Xavier Musketeers
Head Coach: Travis Steele (4th season)
Previous Season Record: 13-8, 6-7 Big East
Key Players: Paul Scruggs, Nate Johnson, Zach Freemantle, Colby Jones, Dwon Odom
Key Departures: Jason Carter, Bryan Griffin
New Additions: Jack Nunge (transfer from Iowa), Jerome Hunter (transfer from Indiana), Cesare Edwards, Elijah Tucker
Date: Tuesday, December 21, 7:00 p.m. (Home)
Preview: Xavier fans were thrilled to learn that Paul Scruggs and Nate Johnson would be returning for an extra year to pilot a team that was derailed by COVID and injuries last season. The Muskies have already toppled #19 Ohio State early in the season and have impressive wins over top-50 KenPom squads Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State. While Xavier boasts the #26 AdjO, it arguably leads with its defense, especially its defensive rebounding. Look for this game to be a battle on the boards...
Head Coach: Aaron McKie (3rd season)
Previous Season Record: 5-11, 4-10 AAC
Key Players: Damian Dunn, Khalif Battle, Jeremiah Williams, Jake Forrester
Key Departures: JP Moorman, De’Vondre Perry, Brendan Barry
New Additions: Sage Tolbert, Hysier Miller, Emmanuel Okpomo (transfer from Wake Forest)
Date: Wednesday, December 29, 9:00 p.m. (Home)
Preview: The Wildcats will wrap up their non-conference schedule with one final game against the Temple Owls. As was the case last year, the Owls presently have an anemic offense (164th) and rank #284 in effective FG%. They rank sub-225 in every shooting category, which is actually somewhat unbelievable. Villanova will not have much to gain in this one but after two tough games against Creighton and Xavier, this one might be coming at a good time...or it’s a trap game ahead of Villanova’s New Year’s Day showdown in Newark...
#16 Seton Hall Pirates
Head Coach: Kevin Williard (12th season)
Previous Season Record: 14-13, 10-9 Big East
Key Players: Myles Cale, Jared Rhoden, Ike Obiagu, Tyrese Samuel, Bryce Aiken
Key Departures: Sandro Mamukelashvili, Shavar Reynolds
New Additions: Kadary Richmond (transfer from Syracuse), Alexis Yetna (transfer from South Florida), Jamir Harris (transfer from American)
Date: Saturday, January 1, 2:00 p.m. (Newark, New Jersey)
Preview: The Pirates faltered down the stretch last year - losing 5 of their last 6 games - en route to a disappointing 14-13 season. However, despite the loss of Mamu, the Pirates are off to a great start this season, toppling #4 Michigan in Ann Arbor and #7 Texas. The Pirates rank #26 in KenPom and boast the nation’s 13th highest effective FG% on defense, something that typically isn’t a calling card of Kevin Williard’s teams. The Pirates play quickly and aggressive at the rim. While Villanova has experience in true road games this season, this one will be a challenge.