Preview: West Virginia - Villanova

West Virginia looks to put more distance between itself and the Wildcats in the race for Big East tournament positioning.

SCOUTING THE WILDCATS

Villanova looked to be on track for another NCAA appearance after getting out of the gate with a 13-3 mark, but two of those losses, to DePaul and Cincinnati, signaled tougher times to come. The Wildcats proceeded to drop four consecutive league games, plus a Big Five contest to St. Joseph's, and as a result are teetering on the edge of tournament extinction.

Leading the way for the Wildcats this year is 2007 Big East Rookie of the Year Scottie Reynolds (So, 6-2, 190 lbs.), who parlays a solid all-around game into 16.6 points per outing. He leads the team in three-point shooting and steals, and is the player that must be controlled in order to keep the Cats in their cage. Newcomer Corey Fisher (Fr., 6-1, 200 lbs.) has proved to be an excellent addition to Reynolds in the backcourt, as he averages 10.7 points to ‘Nova's total scoring output. The duo has been a bit shaky in handling the ball, as they have combined for 118 turnovers on the year.

Three forwards form the Wildcat front line, with Dante Cunningham standing out as the player to watch. Cunningham (Jr., 6-8, 230 lbs.) tallies 10.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and is the team leader in blocks with 21. Dwayne Anderson (Jr., 6-6. 215 lbs.) and Antonio Pena (Fr., 6-8, 235 lbs.) provide good support, with the former recording 4.6 points and 3.8 rebounds, while the latter chips in with 6.5 and 4.1.

Off the bench, center Casiem Drummond (So., 6-10, 275 lbs.) gives ‘Nova more height and punch inside. He averages 5.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Add in forward Shane Clark (Jr., 6-7, 205 lbs.) and his 7.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, and Villanova fields the best inside game they have enjoyed in several years. Onetime starter Reggie Redding (So., 6-5, 205 lbs.) has moved to a backup role in recent games, but his scoring ability can't be ignored, even though he shoots below 40% from the field. Corey Stokes (Fr., 6-5, 220 lbs.) has also been productive with 3.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per outing from his backup guard slot.

OUTLOOK

Villanova has been on a defensive tear of late, yielding fewer than 30 points per half over two and one-half games. Might that denote a defensive struggle when the Mountaineers invade?

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Wed Feb 20
8:00 p.m.

The Pavilion
Records
WVU 18-7, 7-5
VU 15-9, 5-7
Series
VU 19-17
TV
ESPN Plus
Sirius Channel: 127
RPI
WVU - 35
VU - 61
Over the past few seasons, the Wildcats have been a guard-oriented club, but this year, with a number of players in the 6-5 to 6-8 range, they have shifted a bit to a front line dominated team. Those players aren't bruisers, but are long and can move, which makes them tough defensively. The ‘Cats can deploy waves of defenders, and with ten players seeing at least 14 minutes of action per game, are capable of wearing down foes. They held Georgetown to just 55 points in a narrow road loss, and are certainly capable of hanging with a cutting and screening Mountaineer team.

West Virginia likely won't enjoy the rebounding advantage it held over Seton Hall, and will have to work hard to keep the longer, and overall taller, Wildcats off the boards. While ‘Nova doesn't have any one rebounder that stands out, they all contribute something to the effort, and thus hold a plus-three advantage in that category over their foes. The Mountaineer guards must check Villanova players crashing the boards from the wing and other perimeter locations in order to prevent second chance shots and points.

This is step three on the five-game must win tour for WVU, and it is likely the toughest one of the quintet. Villanova is in a more desperate situation than the Mountaineers are in terms of tournament life, and can be expected to come out smoking at their on-campus venue in an attempt to make a late season run. Has West Virginia gotten to the point where, as Bob Huggins notes, they aren't affected by the venue in which the game is played? This game will serve as a validation of that point, as the Mountaineers must play at or near their best in order to get a win.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: None

VU: None Reported

FAST BREAKS

Villanova has sold out its last 78 consecutive regular season games at 6,500-seat Pavilion, its on-campus home. (The ‘Cats also play home games at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.) Villanova has not lost a game at The Pavilion this year, and is 136-22 in its last 14 seasons at the venue.

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West Virginia is one of four Big East teams to post an overall winning record on the road this season. The Mountaineers can even their conference road slate at 3-3 with a win over the Wildcats.

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Villanova is 13-3 (.813) when holding opponents to 75 points or below in 2007-08. It is just 2-6 (.250) when the foe goes past the 75-point plateau.

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Ten of WVU's 18 wins have come by 20 points or more, and all but two victories (St. John's and Marshall) have been in double figures. Four of West Virginia's six losses have come by six points or fewer. As the season winds down, the Mountaineers will need to show they can win close games, and that they are capable of making the big play in crunch time to secure such wins.


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