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Pre-Duel Pleasantries: Villanova

Where we talk to our good friends over at VU Hoops about Saturday's game.

'Nova is all smiles these days
'Nova is all smiles these days
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are in an interesting spot. Xavier has two more games in the regular season with one against lowly Creighton and the other against the top team in the conference, Villanova. As we all know, our opponent is quite good. Our team is not quite as talented, but the game is at home and you never know what will happen when a Davis goes off. To get us ready for the game we talked to our good friend, Chris Lane over at VU Hoops to help us get ready for the game. Here is what he had to say.

1.) Villanova has been almost unstoppable this season with only two losses. What has been the key to your success?

Depth, depth and more depth. We've reached a point where it almost doesn't matter what lineup is on the floor. Sure, some are better than others as our stats guru Corollary will surely let you know. But to the naked eye, it doesn't matter if Phil Booth or Ryan Arcidiacono is running the point or whether Jay Wright wants to go small-ball or stick with his starting 5. Everybody is producing on both ends of the floor at a really high level.

The thing fans will commonly tell you though is that Wright has stocked the program with team-first guys. The players legitimately do not care about their stats. They just want to win. That really comes through on the court, because guys like Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston may have 'off nights' offensively but they don't let it affect their attitude on the defensive end.

Having Darrun Hilliard in the best stretch of his career hasn't hurt either.

2.) Some brackets have the Wildcats as a 1 seed while others have you at a 2 seed. If Villanova wins the rest of their games, will they get a 1 seed?

I think too much still depends on how the conference tournaments play out, but if Villanova wins out and takes the crown in New York, I think they'll have one of the strongest cases to be a #1 seed outside of Kentucky and whichever of Duke/Virginia wins the ACC. I get that Gonzaga has just the one loss on the road in OT to Arizona, but that schedule was a cakewalk. I'm pretty confident in saying the rest of the top-8 seeds would have goose-egged the WCC too.

At the end of the day, looking at bracket projections, I'm not sure there will be a huge difference in a 1 or a 2 for 'Nova. They should end up in the East, and will likely have either Duke or Virginia as their counterpart at the top of the bracket.

3.) Is Darrun Hilliard the Big East Player of the Year?

I'm obviously biased, but assuming he closes strong, I think so. LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn both have a good shout but they will take votes away from each other. D'Angelo Harrison has been completely overshadowed by Sir'Dominic Pointer as of late (Pointer by the way, should make All-BIG EAST), and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is just kind of...there.
I don't know that Hilliard will get it but he is getting tons of good press at the right time.

4.) How do you think your defense has improved since last year and how do you think that will factor in come the NCAA tournament?

The biggest improvement has been in 3-point defense. Villanova not only is allowing a lower percentage of made shots, but I believe a lower percentage of shots taken from there as well. As the underclassmen have matured and learned the defensive rotations, everything has gotten much tighter. They're still dangerously thin on the frontline since Darryl Reynolds hasn't seen much playing time, so if Ochefu gets in to foul trouble we're looking at Pinkston and Kris Jenkins guarding 7-footers. Not ideal.

The improved 3-point defense should help them avoid the mid-major who goes off syndrome early in the tournament, but the NCAA Tournament is always a crapshoot. So much of it depends on matchups and who is hot. Right now, 'Nova is one of the hottest teams in the country. Hopefully they can sustain it.

5.) Now that the second Big East season is winding down, what are your thoughts on the new-ish league?

I really like how all the coaches go to battle for each other and there is a healthy rivalry between them. That's been huge to help the media realize how good this league is. I still think 10 is a bit on the small side and I'd like to see the league go to 12 teams, but I'm really enjoying the home-and-home aspect and I don't want to lose that. St. Louis feels like a good fit, but I'm still not sure who the 12th team would/could be.

Marquette hiring Wojo really ensured that program won't dip much beyond this season, but DePaul really needs to can Purnell and though the Seton Hall circus is hilarious to watch, I think Willard has to go too. I'm torn on Lavin. He stinks, but he seems to rally his guys when it counts.

6.) Prediction on how this game will go?

Can't lie, I'm a little bit concerned and I think 'Nova is ripe for the upset given Xavier's talent, bubble situation, and the atmosphere in the Cintas Center. Senior Night was so emotional for Hilliard and Pinkston and while the team is 100% locked in, I could see a lapse in focus now that they've clinched a share of the BIG EAST title.
Xavier is so good offensively and while Villanova was back to its best last night defensively, I see this becoming a shootout. I won't pick against my guys, but this should be a good game. 78-76 Villanova escapes late.