The #13 Villanova Wildcats (20-5, 11-1 BIG EAST) and St. John’s Red Storm (18-7, 6-6 BIG EAST) are set to face off in a sold out Madison Square Garden at 5:00 p.m. EST on Sunday.
The Wildcats are standing in the top conference spot right now, while the Red Storm is third. Both Teams are coming off of a win.
Here’s three things to watch on Sunday:
A Matching Game
St. John’s has a clear top five players: Shamorie Ponds (6-1 G), Justin Simon (6-5 G), LJ Figueroa (6-6 G/F), Mustapha Heron(6-5 G), and Marvin Clark II (6-7 F). Each of them averages more than 30 minutes a game this season.
The Wildcats have found 4 consistent players in Phil Booth (6-3 G), Eric Paschall (6-8 F), Collin Gillespie (6-3 G), and Saddiq Bey (6-8 F). Their fifth man rotates more between Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (6-9 F), Jermaine Samuels (6-7 F) and Joe Cremo (6-4 G).
The Red Storm has had trouble this season when they’re up against size. While Villanova does not have a traditional big man on the roster, Paschall has shown he could act in that role. Plus, Bey and Cosby-Roundtree can lend size the Johnnies might have a hard time defending.
On the flip side, Nova’s Booth and Gillespie should find themselves very evenly matched, an advantage for the Wildcats. When both players are at the top of their game, along whith Paschall, then Villanova is a force to be reckoned with.
Paschall and Booth were crucial to Villanova's victory last time out.
Beyond the Arc
Ponds and Heron are the top scorers for St. John’s, with 20.5 and 15.6 points per game, respectively. That’s pretty even with Booth and Paschall, who’ve been scoring 18.5 and 17.6 points a game.
St. John’s and Villanova both shoot around 45%, and score around 76 points a game. Villanova shoots, and makes, the most threes of any team in the conference, sinking just under 11 a game. St. John’s on the other hand boasts around 9 a game.
Booth, Paschall, and Gillespie, have all made over 50 shots beyond the arc the season, and Bey has made 33. St. John’s players don't have nearly that many threes under their belt this season.
Villanova’s scoring is really only unmatched to St. John’s beyond the arc, where the Johnnies are only really able to rely on Ponds and Figueroa from deep. In Traditional Villanova fashion, the this game could be won with long range shots.
A Little Background
St. Johns suspects that this win against Villanova could be just what they need to secure a tournament spot, or at least, bolster that resume and turn the season around. Johnnies fans love to recall the beginning of January, when they were up by 13. But Villanova won that game, 76-71. Despite St. John's turbulent journey since that last Villanova game, it still has the talent to make it competitive and give 'Nova a run for its money. However, history is not on the Red Storm's side.
The teams have met 27 times since 2000 with Villanova coming out on 22 of 27 times. Villanova has not lost to St. John’s in the Garden in 17 years.
That’s not to say that upsets can’t happen, of course they can. Still, Villanova has proven that they are still on top this season, and this game should be a reflection of that.