Villanova has had an up and down path since defeating West Virginia in their first meeting two weeks ago, but they haven't been as bad as those sustained by St. John's. The Wildcats lost a hotly contested Big Five game to undefeated city rival St. Joseph's, then knocked off Georgetown before being routed by Providence.
The Wildcats continue to be dependent upon the the three-pointer, and their ability to spread out around the perimeter and bomb away from all angles remains one of the keys to their offense. Villanova had an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers against the Friars, and will be looking to protect the ball better on their trip to the Coliseum.
The Wildcats gave up 15 threes to Providence in their last game, and struggled defensively against the underrated Friars.
WVU's 1-3-1 defense vs. Villanova's three-point attack
In Villanova's win a fortnight ago, the Wildcats were able to get open shots from the perimeter, which lead to a solid win for the Philadelphians.
|Sat 2/14 Noon|
WVU 13-8, 5-5
VU 13-9, 5-4
Game of the Week
WVU - 71
VU - 46
The Mountaineers will also have the option of going to a man-to-man defense, but the matchups involved there likely give and edge to the Wildcats. West Virginia doesn't appear to have enough big, quick defenders to cover Villanova's versatile lineup all over the floor, so it would seem that they will have to concentrate on shoring up their extended zone to prevent those open looks.
Villanova, of course, has been studying recent tapes to see how the Mountaineers have modified their 1-3-1. WVU plays at least two different sets of coverage rules in their zone, depending on what players are in the game, and have been making a few changes to help against the drive and kickout schemes that teams have been playing.
One good sign for WVU is that the Wildcats didn't do much damage on the blocks against the 1-3-1, as the two Nova big men combined for just 12 points. That could allow West Virginia to concentrate on their perimeter defense.
This game is a critical one in the fight for positioning in the conference tournament. With a win, WVU would keep pace or get a leg up on teams like Nova, Syracuse, Boston College and Notre Dame.
Assuming a few fans can be bothered to show up for this critical conference matchup, they could provide a great deal of support for a Mountaineer program that is poised to take another step forward in the rebuilding process. Crowd support, which was almost non-existent for the St. John's game, can make a huge difference when two teams of evenly matched records and capabilities meet.
In fact, we'll make a prediction, which is rarely done in this space. If the Coliseum crowd reaches five figures, the Mountaineers will win. That's not to say that such a throng will intimidate the visitors. However, a crowd of that size, if it supports WVU throughout the game, could be the difference in the outcome.
Villanova is an excellent 3-1 on the road in Big East play, but a surprising 2-3 at home. Overall, Nova is an oustanding 6-2 away from home.
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Only two Wildcats have played in the WVU Coliseum. Derrick Snowden and Andreas Bloch played in West Virginia's thrilling 107-100 double overtime win back in 2001.
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Although the point was beaten into the ground by the television announcers who did the first WVU-Nova matchup, it remains the best indicator of Mountaineer success. WVU is 10-2 when holding their opponents under 70 points.
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Villanova has a similarly indicative stat on their side. The Wildcats are 10-0 when they shoot above 50%, and 3-9 when they fall short of that mark.