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Villanova Basketball game preview: Army Black Knights

The season is (almost) here!

NCAA Basketball: Army at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The wait is almost over. On Tuesday night, college basketball will officially be back for the Villanova Wildcats, who will open up the 2019-20 season with a showdown against the Army Black Knights.

Army finished last season at 13-19 overall and went 8-10 in Patriot League play. This will be the first time the two teams will meet in 53 years. The last time out, ‘Nova won the 1966 meeting, 76-65.

Here are some things to watch for in Tuesday’s game, which tips off at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Army’s Army

Since Jimmy Allen took over the helm of the program for the 2016-17 season, he’s kept up the Black Knights’ deep bench approach. They’ll go deep into their rotation, with 12 or 13 different players, who are each capable of seeing playing time over the course of a game. They like go to the end of the bench, where there’s plenty of fresh legs and players that can help contribute to a spread out, balanced attack. Last year, they had 12 different players appear in at least 15 games. Out of the dozen, 10 of them played for at least 10 minutes per game.

While they can put out a variety of combinations onto the floor, the Black Knights have two cornerstone pieces that they will build and play around—seniors Tommy Funk and Matt Wilson. Wilson, a 6-foot-9 forward, is more of the traditional type of big man. He does most of his damage up close. He’s a physical player on both ends of the court, looking to bully his way inside. Wilson was Army’s top scorer and rebounder last season, averaging 13.8 points and 8.6 rebounds, while shooting 58.6 percent overall. As for Funk, he’s a solid floor general that was top 25 in the country for assists per game. He’s a scrappy pass-first point guard that can also call his own number when needed, but he’s solid when it comes to taking care of the ball and setting his teammates up. Funk is the only other player to score in double figures last season, averaging 12.6 points and 5.9 assists per game.

Archbishop Wood reunion

This will be the first time, officially, that Funk and Villanova point guard Collin Gillespie will share the court with one another for a basketball game since high school.

Like Gillespie, Funk is also from Archbishop Wood, where he also enjoyed a solid high school career and was the starting point guard before graduating and passing the reins to a young Gillespie. While Gillespie was building a name for himself and slowly breaching the Division I conversation as a high school recruit, Funk was tasked with being the Black Knights’ starting point guard from the getgo. He settled in rather quickly and has thrived in his role since.

Now they’ll face off against each other, and Gillespie will get an opportunity to show his former teammate how much he’s grown.

Sleeping in the streets?

From beyond the arc, Villanova didn’t look hot against USC in its preseason exhibition, shooting just 8-of-34 (23.5 percent).

It’ll be important to see the younger ‘Cats see the three-ball fall during games and have their confidence build up. Justin Moore was someone who struggled to hit his shots from deep against USC, but his game-high 39 points and blistering 9-of-12 long-range shooting performance in a secret scrimmage with UNC afterwards has people wanting to see more. Ideally for the ‘Cats, the rest of the team can get going too, and that the USC exhibition was just a one-time deal. Army provides a good opportunity to build that shooting confidence before that tough road test against Ohio State, as the Black Knights struggled defending threes last year.

They allowed opponents to shoot 35.4 percent from beyond the arc, last season, good for 240th in the country.