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Villanova Basketball 2023-24 game preview: Saint Joseph’s Hawks

The Holy War is back on, as Big 5 rivals Villanova and St. Joe’s prepare to battle in a game that will bear plenty of implications on seeding for the first-ever Big 5 Classic on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: St. Joseph at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The 18th-ranked Villanova Wildcats (5-1) are gearing up for a significant showdown as they host the St. Joseph’s Hawks (4-2) at the Finneran Pavilion on Wednesday night at 6:30 PM EST.

This game is not just a regular season matchup; it’s a battle for the right to compete in the first-ever Big 5 Classic Championship and will have heavy implications for which game the ‘Cats will get to play in. The triple-header is set to be held at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.

Villanova Basketball is BACK!

The Wildcats, coming off the best week in program history under Kyle Neptune, are hot. The Wildcats remain undefeated lifetime at the Battle for Atlantis picking up their third championship in as many tries by defeating Texas Tech, then 14th-ranked North Carolina and Memphis.

Eric Dixon took home tournament MVP, was named Big East Player of the Week and also named Andy Katz’s National Player of the Week for his efforts in the Bahamas. Dixon notably scored an impressive 34 points with 10 rebounds in the team’s statement win against UNC.

The team’s offensive prowess is evident as they rank 14th in Kenpom’s adjusted offense metric, while their defense is also strong, ranking 30th in adjusted defense.

When playing Villanova’s brand of basketball, the Wildcats’ can defend as well as any team in the country. Now, they’ll look to carry that momentum against the Big 5 rival St. Joe’s in the latest rendition of the Holy War. Villanova will look to avoid any letdowns, but should come in with heightened awareness, after losing a tough one to Penn earlier in the year.

The Battle 4 Atlantis can be a turning point and building block for the team going forward this season.

St. Joe’s: A 3-and-D Team

St. Joe’s, under the leadership of former Villanova assistant coach Billy Lange, has had a mixed season but shown flashes of brilliance. Their recent performance in Lexington against the Kentucky Wildcats, taking them to overtime, is a testament to their potential.

Junior guard Erik Reynolds II, who tallied an impressive 28 points in that game, and Cameron Brown are the key players to watch. The Hawks love to shoot the three-ball, averaging 11.0 three-pointers per game (8th in the country), but they’re a bit of a volume-shooting team, only knocking down at a 33.8% rate. They love to move and share the ball, boasting one of the top assist rates in the country as a team, so the Wildcats will need to be ready to move on the perimeter.

Their point distribution this season, compared to the national average, is interesting and very telling.

The Hawks score 43.4% of their points beyond the arc, which is the third-highest percentage in the country.

Meanwhile, 43.4% of their points are from inside the arc, while only 13.2% come from the free-throw line. St. Joe’s is in the bottom 30 nation-wide when it comes to both of those categories.

St. Joe’s also excels in defense, ranking in the top 25 for opponent field goal percentage allowed (37.5%). They’re aggressive on the defensive end, forcing an average of 14.5 turnovers per game, making them a well-rounded and competitive team.

Although they don’t primarily attack the basket, the Hawks are good at protecting it, relinquishing only a 42.8% shooting percentage inside the arc (which ranks in the top 25 in the country. At the perimeter, they hold teams to shooting 30.5% from three-point range.

You Want ‘Nova? Bring it on

After defeating the Penn Quakers on Nov. 10, the energy in the St. Joe’s student section was palpable. Amidst the celebration, chants of “We want ‘Nova!” echoed through the arena.

To those fervent students, a word of caution: be mindful of your wishes… these Villanova Wildcats are hot. Fresh off their impressive performance in Atlantis, they’re eyeing a way to get the inaugural Big 5 Classic Championship with determination. The question now is, can Villanova sustain this momentum and potentially get a shot at the title? There are some tiebreakers that would need to be worked out, but a win would certainly keep hopes alive.