The Friars get their first shot at the defending National Champion Villanova Wildcats on Saturday at noon, the game will be nationally televised on FOX. The Friars will make the trip to Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and Friar fans are hoping for a similar result to what happened last season. You remember Jonas? No not the absurdly famous boy band brought to us by the Disney Channel, the massive Nor’easter that hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast last January. The storm clobbered Pennsylvania, thus causing the initial game on Saturday postponed to the next day. The Wells Fargo Center was essentially a quarter full as people were stuck shoveling out their driveways and the students couldn’t get to the game because the busses couldn’t make the trip. The Friars used the graveyard shift crowd to their advantage leading to a 82-76 victory in overtime (If only the Friars could do that against the BC’s and the DePaul’s of the world). Do you want a couple of fun facts? That win snapped a Villanova 22-game winning steak vs the Big East, it was also their last loss at Wells Fargo. The Friars the prior year had played them at their on campus venue The Pavilion, which they currently have 47-game winning streak. Who was the last one to beat them there? You guessed it, the Friars in 2013, behind Bryce Cotton’s go ahead 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left beat the Cats. Other then that Nova usually dominates the Friars but we kinda, sorta have their number on the road. On a separate note I listened to Ed Cooley’s radio show held at Alex and Ani in Cranston on Wednesday and one of his comments really peaked my interest. John Rooke, who is the voice of the Friars on WEEI 103.7 fm, asked coach Ed Cooley what did he think will be the biggest key to slowing Villanova down Saturday. Cooley said the following “Honestly a true question is are how are they going to slow us down. Its not about them its about what we do. You got to coach to your strengths”. So with that here are my keys to the game.
MY KEYS TO THE GAME
- Give Holt and Bullock Paint Touches– All season long the Friars have made a concerted effort to give the ball to Holt and Bullock in the paint when they have the post advantage. This year I truly believe the Friars have the advantage vs Nova, with really only Darryl Reynolds being a defensive presence in the paint. In Nova’s two games where they snuck out victories, at Purdue and vs DePaul, the post players had their way with them. Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan of Purdue combined for 42 points against Nova and DePaul’s big man Tre’Darius McCallum went for 19. When Angel Delgado of Seton Hall faced Nova he only took 7 shots, no wonder why they lost by 30. Holt and Bullock need to attack the paint.
- Don’t Get Frustrated on Offense– When watching the Seton Hall play Villanova on MLK Day one of the announcers said that playing Villanova is “death by a thousand cuts”. He went on to explain that Nova is so good defensively that they make you take bad shots which lead to them scoring on the other end. The Friars can’t let Nova’s defense force the Friars to take bad shots and let it snowball on their defensive end. A basketball game is a game of runs and the Friars must weather the storm and continue to play their game.
- Defend the Three– Villanova is tied for 42nd in the country this season in three-point percentage, hitting on a 38.8% clip and shooting around 25 attempts per game. The Friars must have solid rotations in their man and zone sets to make sure Nova can’t get easy looks from the three-point mark. In man-to-man expect Jalen Linsey to guard Josh Hart and he must keep him in check throughout the game. In zone the Friars must have Lindsey, Cartwright, Diallo, Jackson, White consistently rotating effectively to prevent Nova from knocking down the trey.
Last season when the Friars defeated Nova at the Wells Fargo Center I hosted my fellow Friar friends for a big brunch and game watch, which the Friars pulled out the win. I have good news Friartown, I plan on doing the same thing on Saturday. All superstitions aside however, I feel at this point the Villanova Wildcats will be too much for the Friars to handle. Nova is very good defensively, which poses a problem for a Friar team that can struggle on offense at times, and they share the ball so well that it can frustrate a team that plays good defense. I will say this though, if Kyron Cartwright can continue the play he’s had the last two games it will give the Friars a shot. Seeing Kyron his first year at PC I thought to myself that he was a great player to have because he can give you steady point guard play for four years. Cartwright has blown my expectations out the door, as he has been playing at an entirely different level lately. In his past two games he’s averaging 18 ppg, 9.5 apt and 5.5 rig, that is just outstanding.
Nova 80 Friars 68
Enjoy the Game and GO PATS