Villanova is back in action on Saturday (5 p.m ET) facing an old foe in Boston College. The Eagles are 5-5 on the season, with a few solid wins but also some bad losses, including a recent streak of three-straight losses.
Like the 'Cats, BC has also dealt with injury and some close losses. The Eagles are currently trying to work their highest-ranked freshman Prince Aligbe back into the rotation after an injury.
Boston College Preview
The Eagles have a balanced attack with eight players averaging over six points a game, but no individual that us averaging more than 12 points per game. Their lead guard, Jaeden Zackery, has been their most consistent player (11.3 ppg, 2 apg). Keeping him out of the lane will be important, as he likes to collapse the defense and find open teammates. As a team, the Eagles have been struggling from beyond the arc, connecting on just 26.8% of their 3-pointers. However, they do have a few competent 3-point shooters in C.J. Penha Jr. and Mason Madsen. Chas Kelly who spent last year at The Phelps School can get hot from the outside so will also need to be accounted for. Devin McGlockton and Aligbe are the Eagles go-to forwards. Both of whom are versatile so will need to be guarded inside and out. T.J. Bickerstaff anchors the middle at 6-foot-9. Graduate guard Makai Ashton-Langford (11 ppg) has played the 'Cats multiple times both with Providence and with the Eagles in 2020 at Mohegan Sun.
Keys to the Game
Slow starts have been a persistent issue this season. Opposing teams have consistently gotten off to fast starts, while Villanova has started cold in most games, against the Eagles it’s important the Cats’ get off to a strong start and not give a struggling team confidence.
A corresponding story line is whether or not Cam Whitmore will get his first start of the season. In his first two games Whitmore has come off the bench, playing 20 and 24 minutes respectively. No longer on a minute's restriction it will be interesting to see how his minutes look. Regardless if 'Nova starts slow or not, he's shown that he's able to provide an immediate spark in the two games he's played so far.
Neptune has preferred to go with a small ball lineup in minutes when Dixon is out of the game, so some offsetting of minutes should be expected, but if the slow starts continue we may see another starting lineup change.
Rebounding is an area where the Cats’ have struggled early, In the first half against Penn the team was out rebounded 20 to 11. At this stage it’s hard to know if that is due to a lack of boxing out or a product of running undersized lineups. Regardless, a whole team effort on the glass will be required against the Eagles.
The team will also need to limit defensive breakdowns. Communication and rotations tend to improve with more practice time, so hopefully as the team gets in more practices there will be less breakdowns. Doubling the ball handler out above the arc has caused a few of these breakdowns. If the team continues with this strategy, the defensive rotations will need to be smooth.