Fearless Forecast: Villanova

On Tuesday, Providence will travel to Philadelphia to take on the high-flying Villanova Wildcats. While beating Nova would be an impressive road win for the Friars, it won’t be easy. Not at all.

Our peerless panel of prognosticators gives an informed peek at how they think the game will turn out; purely hypothetical, of course. So, here are our fearless forecasts:

Richard Coren
Prediction: Villanova 74, Providence 63
At this point, Villanova has clearly established itself as this season’s alpha dog in the Big East. That said, no team is unbeatable, but you’d better bring your A+ game. Providence just might be the second best team in the league, but the task gets tougher when you consider that Nova is very tough to beat at the Pavilion and Carson Desrosiers is uncertain due to a knee injury. Paschal Chukwu matched up with Daniel Ochefu for major minutes does not inspire confidence, and along with St. John’s, the Wildcats are not a great matchup for the Friars because of their surplus of quick, athletic wings. More than any team, Nova gives the Friars headaches defending their ball movement and balanced scoring. Needless to say, along with significant contributions from a number of players, PC would need an error-free game from Kris Dunn and a big game from LaDontae Henton and Villanova is the type of team that Henton typically struggles against. Look for PC to keep it competitive, especially if Desrosiers can be effective, but Villanova to run away late.

Steve Hartnett
Prediction: Villanova 78 Providence 69
What’s it going to take for Providence pull off the Big East’s biggest in-conference road win? It’s going to take a big night from the Friar front court. Providence big men Carson Desrosiers, Ben Bentil, and Paschal Chukwu collectively combined for only 8 points and 10 rebounds when Villanova visited the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on February 11th. That sort of disappointing performance is just not going to get it done against a Top 10 team.

Meanwhile, Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu had a monster game, scoring 19 points to go along with his 9 rebounds. That was the big difference in a contest that allowed the Wildcat defense to collapse on Kris Dunn, making him earn every one of his 17 points on 7-20 shooting. LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris otherwise made enough of the shots and free throws needed to keep the Friars in the game, but the outcome was determined in the paint.

If Dunn, Henton, and Harris can put up enough points to keep Providence close, of course they’ll have a chance to steal the road win. However, the Friars will need their big men to compete much better, hit the glass, contribute in the scoring column, and set the tone physically for the Friars. If all that happens, the Friars will have themselves another signature win; but that’s a big ask…

Prediction: Villanova 74, Providence 66
Providence could obviously use a road win against the top team in the conference who also happens to be in the top 10 nationally. I just don't see it happening. The Friars don't match up great with Villanova which isn't really a huge dig at the Friars as the veteran Wildcat team gives pretty much everyone fits. Carson Desrosiers is dealing with a knee injury that may keep him out of action Tuesday, per Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal and while Desrosiers didn't have a great game earlier this season against Villanova, neither did Paschal Chukwu. Villanova has the 6th best adjusted offensive efficiency, per Kenpom.com. They have excellent ball movement and they make are proficient at shooting the basketball. The Wildcats also have a solid defense that holds teams to an eFG% of 45.2%, good for 42nd nationally on Kenpom.com, and they also have a high steal % of 11.8% which ranks 29th nationally according to Kenpom.com. In the last meeting between these two teams at the Dunkin' Donuts Center Villanova shot 50% from the field and made 37 trips to the free throw line. Those two things will be a recipe for disaster for the Friars if those numbers are similar in Tuesday's game. Providence's zone has been very active of late but I worry about what a team like Villanova can do with their crisp ball movement against a zone defense. Man-to-man doesn't present a lot of great matchups for the Friars either.

Prediction: Villanova 76, Providence 66
It seems unavoidable that Kyron Cartwright will have to play a lot to help Kris Dunn with Villanova's pressure defense, which makes the PC zone or man defense worse and likely keeps Junior Lomomba off the floor, and he's the one player along with Dunn who can defend the dynamic set of Villanova guards. The Wildcats move the ball too well to be zoned (particularly at home, where shots tend to fall more readily), and PC lacks the depth and quickness on the perimeter to defend in man. This puts too much pressure on the offense to hit a lot of shots and avoid droughts, something extra difficult on the road. For the Friars to hang in for 40 minutes, it'll take top performances from Dunn and LaDontae Henton and help from the secondary scorers. It's unlikely that would all happen.

Prediction: Villanova 71 Providence 62
Going for their 9th straight, Villanova hosts a flowing and relentless Providence team who is looking to add one more signature win to their resume. When the Wildcats beat the Friars a couple weeks back, they secured their first Top-50 road win of the year. With Arcidiacono and Hilliard leading the way for Nova as of late, they will once again have to face off against a long and disturbing duo of Kris Dunn and Junior Lomomba at the top of the Providence zone. The front court matchup will be a battle, as Daniel Ochefu, who had 19 points in the last meeting, will look to have another solid performance against the Friars. Arguably the top two Big East Player of the Year candidates in the Big East, Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton need to be very effective on the offensive end for Providence to have a good chance to win. I believe LaDonate will have a much better rebounding effort than the last meeting, but I think that won't be enough once again for the Friars, especially with the uncertainty of Carson Desrosiers, who has a sore knee. Look for Villanova to remain undefeated at home this season and sweep the Friars.

Prediction: Providence 73 Villanova 70
You know what I hated most about the Villanova loss earlier this season? We lost because we were too reckless with the fouls. Single digit loss and Nova takes 33 free throws in the second half alone? You don't need to be a stat-matician to see what happened there. No, that won't happen again. Instead, the Friars are going to make sure that they control the paint without fouling, while letting Kris Dunn do his thing defensively to shut down Ryan Arcidiacono and keep him from driving in the lane and getting 1. the easy layup, or 2. the easy foul. I don't expect the three point shooting to match Villanova's (they're currently 35th in the nation from long range, third in the Big East), but as long as we can limit them on that stat we can keep it close. I expect this game to be won from a converted and-one from Henton or Dunn right at the end. Just don't foul. Seriously. Don't.

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