Big 5 play continues for the Villanova Wildcats tomorrow night as the University of Pennsylvania (not Penn State) will look for a repeat of last year’s performance, but this time in the Pavilion.
‘Nova bounced back well from their loss against Baylor with an 83-72 win over La Salle and former Villanova assistant coach Ashley Howard, but the Penn Quakers will not be short of confident. They already picked up a couple of nice road wins against Providence and Alabama earlier this season. Let’s get a closer look at what we can expect from Penn tomorrow’s 6:30 p.m. tip-off.
Don’t underestimate the shooters on the Quakers. Knocking down threes at a 35% clip this season, it puts them in the top third in the nation from behind the arc. Of the primarily 8-man rotation that Penn runs, half of them are above 35% from downtown. Where they run into trouble is that there’s a steep drop-off in shooting quality for the rest of the team, who all have an eFG% (effective field goal percentage) of less than 50%. On the other side, the ‘Cats as a team rank 21st in the nation in 3pt% and 11th in eFG%. Not only does Nova shoot better, they have more shooters with 9 players over 50% in eFG%. This doesn’t play well for Penn who are 257th in the nation in defensive rating, meaning they may have trouble keeping up with a high-powered Villanova offense.
Speaking of defense, we just ragged on Penn for theirs, now it’s Villanova’s turn. The Wildcats’ defense isn’t as bad as Penn’s (a full 100 spots better at 157th in the nation by defensive efficiency), however it’s nothing showstopping like a Virginia. It has been largely criticized by national media this year and mostly been chalked up to inexperience both at the college level and with the Wildcats playing together as a team. However, there may still be some coaching points that could lock things down defensively. As a matter of fact, it was Villanova’s defensive tactics that played a large role in their loss to Penn just last season (click here for more details on that). Let’s hope that adjustments will come this year to prevent a repeat of a season ago.
The Wildcats have the benefit of running a full on 9-man rotation that could become even stronger after Bryan Antoine gets more playing time post-recovery. 7 of those 9 are averaging over 15 minutes per game, meaning Jay Wright has a lot of weapons he can deploy in a number of different ways to exploit weaknesses against Penn. On the flip side, Penn has five players averaging over 15 minutes per game and 4 of those average over 33 minutes per game. Let me repeat that: four of their players average over 33 minutes per game. That’s more than any Wildcat. If the game is close early on, look for Villanova’s depth do provide a boost down the stretch.
Penn has much less firepower than Villanova, but one thing’s for sure: familiarity is a dangerous thing. On paper this seems like a lock for the Wildcats. There is no statistical evidence to support why they could lose tomorrow. But the fact that all of the Big 5 coaches are so familiar with each other, as are many of the players, don’t be surprised if this turns out to be a tough one that the ‘Cats will have to battle through.
Tip off is at 6:30 p.m. on FS1