This was supposed to be the year that Jay Wright and Villanova fell off and became just a regular team. Instead, after starting the season 8-4 with losses to Furman and Penn, the Wildcats are undefeated in Conference play having won seven straight. In fact, their Schedule is favorable enough that they may not lose until a week into February when they travel to Marquette.
Seton Hall would like to change that, but nothing points to this team winning on the road at Villanova after losing its last three road trips. The Pirates looked like one of the better teams in the Big East after beating Kentucky and Maryland in non-conference, but those days are gone after getting swept by DePaul. To win this Game, something has to change and it’s hard to see that happening.
After a slow start, Villanova’s offense is suddenly one of the best in the country again scoring at least 80 points in each of the last three Games. It ranks eighth in the country in terms of offensive efficiency, doing a little bit of everything right, which is a problem for everyone in the conference. Seton Hall actually ranks second in the Conference in terms of defensive efficiency, but it just gave up 97 points at home to DePaul and there was no overtime.
Villanova has turned things around on the back of Phil Booth, who has figured out his role a little better in the past month. He’s averaging 18.4 points per Game on the season, but also 5.1 boards and 5.4 assists over the last seven Games. He’s doing it all and there may not be anyone in the Big East that can slow him down. Of course, Eric Paschall has also picked up the pace, averaging 21.5 points over the last Four Games. With those two guys playing their best basketball combined with Collin Gillespie (11.3 ppg), it’s only a bonus when guys like Saddiq Bey and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree have some success. This team may not be as lethal or shoot as well as previous versions, but Four players are above 38 percent from deep.
Even if Seton Hall plays good defense, Villanova will still get its buckets. The question is if the Pirates can keep up as they’ve failed to surpass 66 points in the last two road Games. The problem is that they don’t do anything overly well from shooting poorly from deep to turning it over on more than 20 percent of possessions in Conference play. The Wildcats may not play the best defense, but Seton Hall doesn’t have enough guys that can make shots so it may not matter.
Myles Powell (22.2 ppg) is trying to do everything, but that hasn’t been enough in recent losses. It doesn’t help that Booth will likely be the one guarding Powell and he just held down Kamar Baldwin to 11 points. The Pirates need more from everyone else and while Quincy McKnight has turned things up with 54 points and 20 assists in the last three Games, no one else has answered the call. Sandro Mamukelashvili, Myles Cale and Michael Nzei all average nine points per Game, but they rarely all play well on the same night and that’s the main issue. It also doesn’t help that no one shoots better than 37.5% from three.
The Pirates had some big wins earlier in the season but that was when they had a little more consistency. If Powell gets shut down like Baldwin did for Butler last Game, this is another Game that Villanova could win easily. The Wildcats are playing better than at any other point this season and will be hard to bet against at home.
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