The Villanova Wildcats (13-0, 1-0 Big East) continue their Big East conference slate at the Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday when they take on the Butler Bulldogs (11-3, 1-0). Here are three things to watch for:
While Butler handed Villanova two of their four losses last year, this is not the same Butler team which gave the Wildcats so much trouble the year before. They lost senior big man Andrew Chrabascz, whose passing from the high post devastated the Wildcats, and guard Avery Woodson, who provided a steady hand at point guard for the Bulldogs, as well as losing their coach Chris Holtmann to the Ohio State job. Under the guidance of their new head coach LaVall Jordan, Butler has gotten off to an 11-3 start. However, Butler is still no pushover, led by the dynamic duo of Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin, who have averaged a combined 33 points per game to lead the Bulldogs. In their first game of Big East play, both players tallied over 25 points against Georgetown, with Martin making the game-winning floater with 2.6 seconds left in double overtime. Martin and Baldwin will be the key for Butler. If they play well, the Bulldogs can stay competitive, but if not, expect a Villanova blowout. They will be integral to their team’s success, just as they were last year.
Omari Spellman has been a revelation for the Wildcats in his redshirt freshman year, averaging over 11 points and eight rebounds while shooting over 50% from three. Spellman has unlocked another dimension to Jay Wright’s offense. When Mikal Bridges plays at the ‘four’ instead of Eric Paschall—combining with Spellman in the front court—it provides a lineup where all five players are shooting 40 percent or better from beyond the arc. This lineup can stretch a defense unlike almost any other college team can do. Spellman may not be the leader of the team, or the most NBA-ready player, but he is the X-factor for this team. He’s turned it around since a slow start that included a rough time at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Since then, he’s only taken his game to new heights and as a whole the team has been elevated. Where Omari goes, Villanova goes come tournament time.
Out of our Depth
Photos surfaced of freshman forward Jermaine Samuels with his arm in what appears to be a cast, which would make him the second rotation player to go out with injury, after fellow freshman Collin Gillespie, who is expected to miss another month with a broken wrist. This would leave the Wildcats with only seven rotation players to work with. This short-handed roster is not new for the Wildcats, as the team dealt with this issue at times last year as various players dealt with injuries. Villanova’s balanced attack is one of its greatest strengths, but the lack of depth on the bench could leave the team in trouble if any players get into foul trouble.
Tipoff is at 4 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse, and the game will be broadcast on CBS.