Villanova did what it needed to on Tuesday, defeating the league’s first place team to put itself in position for a Big East title. Now, the Wildcats will go from playing the top of the standings to the bottom, as they face Georgetown on Saturday.
The game is a big one for the rivalry, as the all-time series between these two teams is tied at 45 after Villanova dropped Georgetown 85-74 back on Jan. 22.
It will be a 5 p.m. ET tip at the Finneran Pavilion on Saturday, and if you can’t make it there, you can tune in on FOX.
Georgetown stays down
Coach Patrick Ewing and Georgetown remain winless in the Big East through 14 games and are sporting a 6-19 record overall. Perhaps more concerning is the non-competitive way they have played in recent weeks.
In Georgetown’s last six contests, only one loss has been decided by less than 10 points. The Hoyas have also trailed by 17 points at the half of each of their last two games.
While there isn’t much working well at the moment, sophomore point guard Dante Harris is starting to heat up a bit. He’s averaging 18.5 points per game in his last two contests. He’s also been a thorn in Villanova’s side, as he’s averaged 17.5 ppg in his last two games against the Wildcats.
Freshman Aminu Mohammed has continued to pace the Hoyas in scoring and put up a career-high 27 points against Creighton on Monday.
And that’s pretty much where the positives end. The Hoyas are the 199th ranked team in KenPom and are 252nd in the country in defensive efficiency. In theory, the Wildcats should roll, although Georgetown has played Villanova tough under Ewing, including holding a 9-point second half lead last month.
There are no cupcake games in the Big East, but this is as easy as it gets and is clearly Villanova’s most winnable game left on the schedule.
For many of the reasons stated above, this is not a game Villanova should have a lot of trouble with. Thus, with an injured backcourt, an ideal scenario would be an opportunity to play Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore less, while increasing bench minutes.
While Gillespie and Moore looked anything but injured on Tuesday against Providence, their health is still the utmost concern. They have each played at least 36 minutes in each of their last two contests. It hasn’t seemed to have affected them physically, but Jay Wright would likely welcome a game to give each an extended breather.
Additionally, the bench usage has been trending in a downward direction outside of Caleb Daniels. Bryan Antonie, Jordan Longino and Chris Arcidiacono played a combined seven minutes in each of the team’s last two games. Longino especially has barely seen the floor during that time.
If there was ever a game to extend the bench and grow your confidence in these guys before March, this is it. Since the season began, depth has been a major issue for the Wildcats and time has almost run out to extend the rotation to seven or eight players.
The defense is resting
A strength for much of the season, Villanova’s defense has seen its numbers heading in a negative direction since February began. The Wildcats have allowed at least 83 points twice this month and have had some troubling stretches along the way, probably most notably the finish against St. John’s.
That being said, the Wildcats still sit 27th in the country in defensive efficiency according to KenPom, so it’s not like they are bad defensively. In recent weeks, though, they have been exposed more often, especially against Providence, where the Friars could get to the basket at will.
Maybe it’s the injuries? The short bench leading to more fatigue? The natural effects of hitting the dog days of February in a long season? Whatever it is, Wright knows that reversing that stretch is essential to fuel a deep March run.
Against a Georgetown team ranked 149th in KenPom for offensive efficiency, there really is no reason for why that turnaround shouldn’t start on Saturday.