This past Saturday, the Villanova Wildcats (12-10) were able to snap their five-game losing streak with a 68-50 win over the Providence Friars. Hopefully, this Providence win is the corner the Wildcats needed to turn to get back on track.
The team hopes to create a winning streak and complete a regular-season sweep of the Xavier Musketeers (12-10). During the first matchup between Xavier and ‘Nova, the Wildcats led most of the game, but they only won by one point. Xavier looked great and had a shot at the buzzer for the win, but Villanova ultimately prevailed.
At that time, the ‘Cats were atop the Big East with a 3-0 conference record. Unfortunately, though, times have changed and the ‘Cats are now in the bottom three of the Big East standings. Hakim Hart, however, had his breakout game for Villanova during the first matchup, scoring 14 points, grabbing five rebounds, and dishing out three assists.
Still, since that game on January 4th, the Wildcats lost six of eight games, including a five-game losing streak.
Is Defense and Rebounding All You Need?
The Xavier Musketeers have been overall inconsistent this season. Despite a strong ability to rebound, with an average of 40.0 rebounds per game (25th in college basketball), their overall performance leaves much to be desired. Offensively, they score an average of 77.1 points per game, placing them 101st, while defensively allowing 73.0 points (221st), indicating room for improvement on both ends of the floor.
Their three-point shooting efficiency is average at best, with a 35.0% success rate (133rd), mirroring their opponents’ performance. Furthermore, Xavier’s points per possession metrics—94.5 on offense (194th) and 89.5 on defense (111th)—along with a moderate turnover rate, highlight their struggles in maintaining consistency and pressure.
Apart from their impressive rebounding, Xavier ranks low in most statistical categories.
Contain Xavier’s Guards
Xavier’s team dynamics are shaped significantly by the contributions of their leading guards: Quincy Olivari, Desmond Claude, and Dayvion McKnight. Each player brings distinct strengths to the court, forming a core unit that drives the Musketeers’ performance.
Olivari continues to be a big impact player, averaging 19 points and five rebounds per game. His presence on the floor is a critical element of Xavier’s offensive strategy, providing reliable points and vital contributions on the board.
Desmond Claude, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, follows closely behind Olivari, offering a versatile skill set with averages of 16 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. His ability to contribute across the board—scoring, rebounding, and distributing the ball—makes him an invaluable asset to the team, blending scoring efficiency with playmaking prowess.
Dayvion McKnight complements the trio with nearly 12 points, four rebounds, and five assists per game. His balanced contribution underscores his role as a facilitator and scorer, highlighting the depth of talent within Xavier’s guard lineup.
However, their collective strength was tested in the first matchup against Villanova, where all three guards were held in check. The trio each scored in double figures, but shot just 32.5% (13-of-40).
How Villanova Can Complete The Season-Sweep
The ‘Cats need to lean on their calling card and put together another big defensive performance. They have to implement a tight defensive scheme specifically designed to neutralize Xavier’s guard play. By limiting the scoring opportunities for Olivari, Claude, and McKnight, Villanova can disrupt Xavier’s offensive rhythm. It’s unlikely they shoot as bad as Providence did, but any attempt to slow them down is important.
Villanova also has to match Xavier’s aggression and assertiveness on the boards.The rebounding margin was pretty close the last time they faced off, and they’ll need to box out and limit those Musketeers’ second-chance points.
Offensively, the ‘Cats got a big boost from their bench the last time out. Hakim Hart and Brendan Hausen were instrumental in getting the win, but whenever you go into the Cintas Center, it’s a tough place to play, so it’ll be all hands on deck.