And so, they meet again. It wasn’t that long ago when Providence knocked off Villanova, ending the Wildcats’ 22-Game Big East winning streak and their 32-Game home streak. That loss is fresh in Nova’s minds, mainly because they never lose in Conference play. Providence remains a hard team to predict, having a better Conference record on the road than at home. This Game will be played in Providence.
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The Wildcats still have a chance of being a 1-seed, but if they get swept by the Friars, that may not be possible. While ‘Nova has run through most of the Conference pretty easily, they have had trouble in recent road Games, going down to the wire with Butler, Georgetown and Seton Hall.
But the result of this Game will depend on what Providence team shows up. The Friars seem to take their foot off the pedal at home, but it’s hard to see them doing that against the Conference leaders. The problem now is that Ben Bentil picked up an ankle injury Tuesday and is questionable to play. Without Bentil for most of that Tuesday Game, the Friars lost at a bad Depaul team.
These teams went to overtime in the first meeting and the main difference was the playmakers for Providence. While they aren’t very deep and usually get no production from the bench, the Friars often have the two best players on the cOurt in every Game. Ben Bentil dropped 31 points and 13 boards in the first Game, while Kris Dunn had 13 points and 14 assists in 88 combined minutes. While that was the case, maybe the bigger help were the guys around them hitting shots. Kyron Cartwright had 13, Junior Lomomba had 12 and Rodney Bullock had 8.
The Friars struggle with consistency outside of their top two guys and in that Game, three different players showed up. That’s huge for a team that rarely gets more than three players in double digits. In fact, only three players average more than 6.5 points on the year.
On the other end, Villanova didn’t hit enough shots to win that first Game. They have the edge depth-wise, but when you shoot 9-of-31 from deep, that’s usually not going to cut it. And if the Wildcats take that same strategy, it’s hard to see them coming out on top, unless of course they make more of those shots. But it’s already been noted the Wildcats aren’t as good on the road. Long-range shooting will undoubtedly be what knocks this team off. Almost half of their shots are from behind the arc, but strangely, they only make 32% of them as a team. Sure, almost every guy on Nova can shoot the deep ball, but it doesn’t help when it’s not at a consistent rate.
The biggest thing for the Wildcats in this Game outside of shooting, will be stopping Bentil down low. But if Bentil doesn’t play, it’s going to be extremely difficult for Providence to win and that will probably be reflected in the spread if that’s the case.
Daniel Ochefu fouled out in that first Game and Darryl Reynolds struggled mightily when up against Bentil. And it’s not like that 31-point effort was a one-time thing for Bentil. As long as he plays, the Friars will go to him early and often, in hopes of a similar effort. Part of that falls to the Nova guards as well because they have to limit easy passes to the post, whether it’s Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson or Ryan Arcidiacono. Of course, going against Kris Dunn, one of the best point guards in the country, that isn’t easy.
The Friars have strangely struggled at home this year, but as long as they play their Game, will have the edge in this one. Then again, if their role players don’t get the job done, Villanova will be walking out with a win for a series split.
Predicted Score- Villanova 75 Providence 65