We glossed over this post before the Georgetown game because, frankly, there wasn't much anything that the Hoyas did that necessitated juggling the lineup. That's not the case with Villanova, who give Xavier fits in every possible aspect of the game. Since joining the Big East, Xavier has not beaten the Wildcats. In fact, the last time Xavier knocked off Villanova at all was a decade ago. The biggest game in Cintas Center history represents a chance for Xavier to finally have an argument at being the best team in a major conference. To get there, they have problems to solve.
1. Defending the three.
Here's the good news: Villanova is actually a pretty bad three point shooting team in terms of percentage. On the season, they make 32.6% of their three pointers, 34.2% in conference play. Of course, that comes with bad news. 44% of Nova's field goal attempts come from behind the arc and 32.6% of their points do. That basically means they will drown teams with volume and hope they got hot. There are two teams in the Big East that get more of their points from behind the arc, which seems like good news until you learn those teams are Georgetown and Creighton.
That leaves Xavier with a choice. In previous years Nova has gone small and just gunned Xavier to death. This seems to argue for a switch to a man to man featuring Trevon at the four to match up with Nova's shooters. Unfortunately, no team in the nation shoots better inside the arc than Nova. Man means leaving Farrnolds straight up against Ochefu and having to cover for guards beaten by Wildcats who are more than willing to slash into the lane. That screams foul trouble for a big, but it could cut down on three point attempts significantly.
Or, Xavier could go with the vaunted 1-3-1. Against Villanova it might be useful to play an aggressive Abell on the wing more and let him close rapidly on anyone out there. With a spine of Macura-Gates-Reynolds and Abell, Blueitt, and Sumner on the wings, passing lanes would get a lot smaller. Myles would find his playing time in there somewhere, because he always does. Going zone, though, is just inviting three point attempts. If a couple of those start to drop and Villanova gets hot, Xavier is 0-6 against them in conference play.
2. Score or defend?
That question may not actually be that binary, but it is a choice Xavier has to make. Sean O'Mara only missed one field goal attempt the last time these two teams met and has an effective field goal percentage of 69% in conference play. JP Macura is Xavier's most efficient scorer over the last two months and has shown a knack for pouring in points when Xavier needs them. Unfortunately, neither of those guys are great defenders (and that's phrasing it nicely). Remy Abell presents a clear defensive upgrade over JP but, even with his recent upswing, he's not nearly the scorer. Jalen Reynolds is a vastly superior defender than O'Mara, but his conference offensive rating is barely over 95.
3. But what if the double post returns?
Villanova isn't perfect. This isn't immediately discernible from their KenPom breakdown, which is awash in the green hues of success, but it's true. One place the Wildcats can be had is on the offensive glass. Ochefu is a good rebounder, but he fouls a lot. the Wildcats don't have the relentless depth on the glass that Xavier does, and they certainly don't have James Farr. Xavier could go with the double pivot and dare 6-7 freshman Mikal Bridges to beat them from deep when he's on the floor. Bridges isn't afraid to let fly, but he's a 29% three point shooter who does his best work at the rim. Put Jalen on him with instructions to sag off on defense and Xavier could reap massive double post dividends on the other end.