After a wild week that saw the door open for Villanova becoming the nation’s top-ranked team once again, they will be put to a difficult test as they host the dangerous tenth-ranked Xavier Musketeers.
Xavier, who’s coming off of an 81-72 loss to Providence, will look to prove they’re truly a contender for the Final Four, something that hasn’t been done in the program’s history.
These two teams know how to score, but they also struggle with teams being able to put up big numbers against them. This game could very well turn out to be a classic shootout, or it could be decided by which team buckles down and steps up the defense. Either way, the result will carry a big impact for the top teams in the Big East.
Both teams enjoy a top-ten national ranking, but leading up to the game Xavier sits at second in the Big East while the Wildcats are fourth. These two were picked to finish in the top places of a very competitive Big East conference, but this game might carry some weight down the line.
Villanova, who boast a 14-1 (2-1) record, are a nine-point favorite to win this game. They’ve got the advantage of playing at their home court and are coming off of a 100-90 win over Marquette. Lead by junior guard Jalen Brunson, who averages 19.4 points per game, the Wildcats have five double-digit scorers.
Meanwhile, Xavier only has two players that average double-digit scoring nights. One of them is senior guard Trevon Bluiett, who has become the Muskies’ main guy over his collegiate career.
While Xavier doesn’t have prolific scoring, they do spread the wealth. Outside of their top-two scorers, six players average at least 7 points per game. In order for them to stay in what should be a very difficult game, they’re going to have to keep up their scoring.
Keys to Victory
Villanova knows how to get the job done. What they do best is simply score, and they do that in high numbers. For the Wildcats to avoid the upset, they’ll need to not only keep up the scoring but also shut down Xavier’s weapons. Bluiett and J.P. Macura will be ready to shock the top-ranked Wildcats, but if Jay Wright’s men can keep them quiet or below their average performances, Villanova will enjoy sitting at No. 1 until their next game.
In their last six games against the nation’s No. 1 team, Xavier has won four of them. For Xavier to make that five out of seven, they need to utilize the emotions and rebounds.
Xavier will want to play the role of the spoiler. Going into a conference rival’s home court and leaving victorious should give the Muskies plenty of motivation. They also need to exploit Villanova’s weakness — rebounding. The Wildcats average 35.3 rebounds per game, while Xavier averages 40.0. If they can retain the ball offensively and minimize Villanova’s second chances, they would have the right ingredients to upset the number one team.
Although I think Xavier deserves more credit on the national stage, I think Villanova takes care of business. Expect a high scoring game between the two, but defense might be the deciding factor.