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Xavier v. Villanova: Preview, matchups, and keys to the game

Here we go. This game lasted all of two minutes last time. Tonight it's a top five matchup with one seed implications for both teams. Regular season games get no bigger than this.

Not this again.
Not this again.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This is usually the time of year where talk turns to making the tournament, seeding, or whether Xavier can avoid some horrid draw in a 6-11 matchup. None of that really applies this year, as the Musketeers could lose out and still wander into the tournament as a four seed. That has lent just the slightest air of anti-climax to the Saturday destruction of Georgetown. Xavier is cruising at a time when last year we were wondering whether they could even manage an at-large bid. Come on college basketball regular season, where is the drama?

Well, the drama is the number one team in the nation visiting the number five team in a midweek game that could determine who gets a one seed. The drama is attempting to a avenge a loss in a game that was barely two minutes long the last time. The drama is in winning this game and then having a legitimate claim to being the best team int he nation. You can rest assured that if this were a Big 12 game, ESPN would have been hyping it non-stop during the commercial breaks from Peyton Manning and Johnny Manziel coverage.

There is not a bigger game in college basketball this week, and your Xavier Musketeers are involved in it. A win here and Coach Mack and his charges are very real contenders to land a one seed. Seton Hall and Creighton to close things out may or may not get your blood pumping, but if tonight's game doesn't have you nervous/excited already, I don't know what to tell you. Games that happen before the second weekend of the tournament get no bigger than this one.

Team Fingerprint:

Villanova's offense gets all the attention, but their defense is fourth best in the nation. The only places they may be vulnerable are from behind the arc, where opponent's shoot 33.3% and get 34.2% of their points. Those aren't overwhelming numbers, but they are the gap in Nova's armor. Opponents also grab almost 30% of their misses against the

Wildcats. After that, things get dismal. Villanova's block and steal percentages are both over 10%, they turn teams over just over 20% of the time, they don't send teams to the line much at all, and opponents shoot an appalling 41.5% inside the arc against them.

Offensively Nova ranks 15th in the nation in efficiency. As mentioned in the article linked to the right, the Wildcats are amazingly effective inside the arc (shooting 57%) but prefer to chuck it from deep anyway. 44.5% of Villanova's field goal attempts are three pointers. The good news there is that they only shoot 32.6% on those, the bad news is that the volume itself becomes overwhelming to defenses. Because of that heave happy tendency Nova neither gets blocked much (6.8%) nor gets on the offensive boards all that well (30.7%). They also don't get fouled a great deal, but they shoot a best in the nation 78% when they do get to the line.

Starters

Jalen Brunson Point Guard Edmond Sumner
Freshman Class Freshman
6'2", 199 Measurements 6'6", 183
10.6/1.9/2.7 Game Line 11.4/3.2/3.2
.449/.378/.774 Shooting Line .432/.350/.730
Brunson came on to campus heralded as the next in Nova's succession of elite guards and has lived up to the billing for most of the year. However, his numbers have taken a significant dip as the season has worn on and he comes into this one with an A:TO of 14:19 in February. His outside shooting has remained solid throughout his other troubles, but other than 15 and 16 point performances against Creighton, he has not fared that well against the top half of the Big East.
Ryan Arcidiacano Shooting Guard Myles Davis
Senior Class Junior
6'3", 195 Measurements 6'2", 188
12.0/2.8/4.3 Game Line 10.5/3.6/3.9
.423/.356/.828 Shooting Line .392/.369/.897
Arcidiacano isn't having quite the season he did last year when he was Co-Big East Player of the Year, but that is not to say he has been bad. Stepping into a larger role this year, his assist and turnover rates have not been notably different than last year, he just isn't making shots at the same ridiculous rate he did a season ago. He remains a threat to score the ball all over the court and he is excellent at turning the opponent over on defense.
Josh Hart Small Forward Remy Abell
Junior Class Senior
6'5", 202 Measurements 6'4", 185
15.0/7.6/1.8 Game Line 6.1/1.4/1.6
.505/.339/.741 Shooting Line .400/.339/.768
Hart is the frontrunner for conference player of the year if it is based on stats and not hype. He is shooting 61% inside the arc for the season, which is an incredible rate even before you consider he remains a threat from downtown. He gets to glass at both ends of the court, takes care of the ball, and does well at turning opponents over as well. He is in the top 5 in the conference in EFG and True shooting % and 7th in ORtg. All that to say, this guy can hurt a team in a hurry when he gets hot.
Kris Jenkins Power Forward Trevon Bluiett
Junior Class Sophomore
6'6", 240 Measurements 6'6", 215
11.3/3.8/2.1 Game Line 15.3/6.5/2.3
.401/.331/.833 Shooting Line .417/.382/.785
Jenkins is another extremely efficient cog in Villanova's offensive machine, but typically gives up a bit on the boards due to his height. Jenkins has shot 38% from three in conference play and is a threat to stretch an opposing defense with his well rounded offensive game. He has gone for double digits in 10 of the last 11 games only once failing to connect on a three pointer during that span. His lack of rebounding ability is really his only drawback, and he is a proficient shot blocker for someone of his height.
Daniel Ochefu Center Jalen Reynolds
Senior Class Junior
6'11", 245 Measurements 6'10", 238
10.5/8.2/1.3 Game Line 9.6/6.7/0.7
.629/.000/.667 Shooting Line .505/.333/.624
Ochefu has been the key to keeping things together down low for Villanova this season. He has always been a tremendous rebounder and shot blocker, which he remains even more so this season, but his offensive game has rounded out this year as well. He isn't a threat at all from range, but he is capable of keeping an opponent honest and dominating most attempts to leave only one guy on him in the post.

Reserves

Villanova's bench goes exactly 3 deep. These three guys play in every game, and usually no one else does. The most used piece is guard Phil Booth, who gets 7.0/2.4/2.3, but only shoots .339/.256/.852, which you may recognize as super bad. Booth enters this game on a 1-16 slump from deep, which likely means he is about to bust out Tre Campbell style. 6'7" Freshman Mikal Bridges currently boasts the highest ORtg in conference play, but still only gets about 20 minutes a game due to the fact that he likes to foul and is super skinny. Bridges only shoots 29% from deep, but is downright deadly inside the arc and his tremendous length has him in all the passing lanes on defense.

Last up is 6'8" post Darryl Reynolds, who is not related to Jalen Reynolds or any other Musketeer for all I know. Reynolds comes into the game to do two things: play defense and get rebounds. You might notice I didn't say shoot, and that is because Reynolds only shoots on 7.2% of the possessions he is on the court for, which is less than even the notably shot-shy Larry Austin Jr. That being said, Reynolds is a good rebounder and blocks shots fairly well, so I guess he embraces his role.

Three Keys:

- Limit the damage from behind the arc: Honestly, this could be the lone key. Villanova tends to get hot against Xavier and the Musketeers tend to dare teams to beat them from deep. If the Wildcats attempts start to creep over the 30 mark, Xavier is in serious trouble. The Musketeers must absolutely figure out how to stop Nova from just firing away while also keeping the third best interior shooting team in the nation from going crazy inside. How they do that is a mystery that Coach Mack must solve.

- Hammer the offensive glass: Getting on the glass does more than just the obvious giving Xavier more chances at scoring themselves. Extra possessions keep the ball out of the hands of Nova's shooters, increase the chances that Daniel Ochefu commits fouls, and puts a team already mediocre at covering the arc into a scramble mode. Xavier has a serious advantage here, they have to leverage it to get tip-ins, free throws, and extra shots.

- Speed the game up: Xavier loves to play fast, Villanova loves to play slow. X is currently the 55th quickest team in the country in terms of tempo, Nova is down in the 280s. Jay Wright would like to drag this thing down and let his floor spacing gunners do their thing. Xavier can counter that by raking and running and trying to get easy buckets early. If Remy Abell is on the court, look for him to be running out after shots. If Xavier keeps the tempo high, their athleticism will tell.