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Preview: Villanova vs. St. John's

VUSports previews #4 AP, Villanova taking on St. John's at the Wells Fargo Center, Saturday at 8 p.m. ...

Villanova takes on St. John’s on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. (TV: CBS SN, Radio: 610 (WTEL AM) or VUSports Live Chat).  

The two teams met three weeks ago with the Wildcats winning 70-57 at Madison Square Garden.  In that first meeting, Villanova committed 20 turnovers while dishing out only 9 assists.  The ‘Nova defense was solid while the Cats got 28 bench points and had a +10 advantage in offensive rebounding.

Kenpom predicts an 84-65 win for Villanova with a 96% chance of ‘Nova grabbing a W.  ‘Nova trails the all-time series, 54-59.  The Cats are 16-1 over the last 17 games played between the two teams.

The Johnnies are 11-13 on the season and a surprising, 5-6 in the Big East.  After losses to Minnesota, Michigan St,, VCU, and Penn State out-of-conference, St. John’s crushed Syracuse, 93-60, at the Carrier Dome for their lone “quality” win prior to conference play.  In conference, St. John’s has managed wins over DePaul (sweep), Butler, Marquette and at Providence.  However, the party of wins may be over as road games at Villanova, Butler, Creighton and Marquette remain.  Kenpom projects the Johnnies finishing 1-6 down the stretch of the BE regular season.

Keys for Villanova in this game will be 1) defending aggressively for the full 40; 2) rebounding; 3) taking care of the rock.

Taking a look at the Four Factors for each team:

VUSports (data per Kenpom.com)

a few things stand out:

St. John’s is an average team on both ends of the floor in Effective FG%

The Red Storm is not a very good offensive rebounding team - nor is Villanova

SJU gets to the FT line more frequently than the Cats

The Johnnies defense creates turnovers - they certainly did in the first match-up with ‘Nova this season

other stats of interest:

The Cats continue to shoot the ball well from all three levels

Villanova is holding teams to 30.1% FG shooting (11th nationally) … and prepare to face a St. John’s team  that is shooting a solid 38% from three on the flip side, the Johnnies shoot only 47.7% from two so the Cats may look to force them off the three-point line

St. John’s is a very good shot blocking team but the Cats don’t get blocked at a high rate

St. John’s is a young, inexperienced team

St. John’s player thumbnails:

Marcus Lovett (6-0, 175, Fr., 33.0 MPG, 16.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.8 SPG, 42.2% 3PFG, 47.9% FG, 81.5% FT, 110.3 ORtg)  The Frosh is playing very well across the board.  Other than a bit of a high turnover rate, he is playing effective basketball  He drains threes, distributes the ball, and has the ability to get to the FT line with some frequency and can his freebies when he gets there.  He can get very hot - has two games of 30+ points already in his career.

Bashir Ahmed (6-7, 210, Jr, 26.5 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 37.7% 3PFG, 39.1% FG, 68.9% FT, 95.7 ORtg,)  Ahmed takes a high percentage of shots when he is on the court.  These shots are pretty evenly spread between three-pointers and two-pointers and he, interestingly shoots a similar percentage from both regions.  Given that, the Cats should look to get him to put the ball on the deck.  He helps out on the defensive glass.

Shamorie Ponds (6-1, 170, Fr., 33.8 MPG, 17.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 37.3% 3PFG, 44.2% FG, 81.2% FT, 116.2 ORtg)  The most efficient Johnny on offense.  Takes the majority of his shots from beyond the arc.  He is playing very well for a Frosh.  Solid A/TO numbers for a young guard, shooting well from all ranges and creating turnovers on defense.

Malik Ellison (6-6, 215, So., 25.6 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 40.3% 3PFG, 45.4% FG, 56.3% FT, 105.4 ORtg)  Good ball-handler and passer from the wing position.  Shooting the deep ball well so far this season.  Ellison is a cerebral player that can play multiple positions.

Tariq Owens (6-11, 200, So., 18.7 MPG, 5.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 50% FG, 75% FT,110.3 ORtg)  Provides shot-blocking and rebounding.  Owens is exclusively an inside threat on offense and remains a bit raw offensively.  

Federico Mussini (6-2, 170, So., 18.5 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 44.4% 3PFG, 41.4% FG, 84.2% FT, 108.0 ORtg)  He has seen his minutes reduced in relation to last season but he is playing more effectively in the minutes he does earn.  Stroking the deep ball well so far this season.   He seems to be shooting the ball better in part because he has been relieved of the chores of a primary ball-handler.

Kassoum Yakwe (6-7, 210, So., 20.1 MPG, 4.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 0.9 APG, 44.6% FG, 70.6% FT,  98.5 ORtg)  Primarily a shot-blocker and defender.  Yakwe lacks offensive versatility but is doing a good job this season of sticking to what he can do on the offensive end. He is a great 5-man defensively but has the body of a modern 3-man.  His unpolished game leaves him as a ‘tweener positionally - but a good ‘tweener to have because shot-blocking skill is a rare commodity.

Amar Alibegovic (6-9, 240, Jr., 8.5 MPG, 1.8 RPG, 13.3% 3PFG, 27.3% FG, 45.5% FT, 71.9 ORtg)  Plays some back-up minutes at the five spot to take up space in the lane, rebound, screen and defend.  He lacks offensive punch.

Darien Williams (6-8, 235, Sr., 10.6 MPG, 3.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 53.3% FG, 70% FT, 108.2 ORtg) The Senior has stepped up to provide some quality depth on the front line.  Plays within himself on offense.

Richard Freudenberg (6-9, 240, Fr., 9.9 MPG, 1.3 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 16.7% 3PFG, 21.4% FG, 75% FT, 64.0 ORtg)  Despite his large frame, Freudenberg prefers to shoot the ball from deep … he is one of the few St. John’s players that has struggled shooting the three so far this season.  The Frosh has done an okay job on the defensive glass but struggled to find a groove on offense.

Check out shot charts on St. John’s players here (courtesy of ONIN2TO)

Injury: Phil Booth is expected to miss the game for Villanova.


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