Can Villanova continue to win with no true go-to scorer?
So far this season, the Wildcats have prided themselves on having a very balanced offensive attack, and it's been extremely effective. No Villanova player averages over 12.3 ppg (raise your hand if you pegged Dylan Ennis as the leading scorer) and eight, count em, EIGHT 'Cats average over 5 ppg (eat your heart out Calipari). Now this balanced attack is not a strange occurrence at Nova - last season six players averaged over 5 ppg - but last year it was evident that James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard separated themselves as the go-to guys. This season has been entirely different, as five different guys have taken a turn leading the team in scoring during one of the eight games. Now while this is all fine and dandy and could work against good competition (the 'Cats are still 8-0), you almost have to wonder if they'll drop a game with no true go-to guy who can put the team on his back offensively. Illinois will be a good test of this, as the Illini can fill it up, ranking 15th nationally in scoring. It'll be interesting to see if the balanced attack can keep up.
Big men must come up, well.... BIG
An interesting matchup (well I guess two matchups) to be on the look for includes the two big men for both teams. Both of the marquee wins on Villanova's resume have both come against guard oriented teams in Michigan and VCU. In those two games, the 'Cats combined to out-rebound them by 10, and Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu were solid when called upon, as they combined to shoot 16-of-29 from the field. This Illini team is very similar, with athletic guards Rayvonte Rice leading the team in both points and rebounds, and Malcolm Hill coming in at second in both categories. This means, once again, it will be important for Nova to get Pinkston and Ochefu going early, as they go up against a group of big men who don't feature anyone in the team's top five scoring wise. Therefore, look for the Wildcat bigs to try and assert their dominance early and often if they want to leave this game 9-0.
Strength on Strength
As I mentioned earlier, the Illini can straight score with the best of them, and it will be up to the vaunted Villanova defense to stop them in their tracks. So far, the Wildcat defense has been spectacular, and against VCU actually out-shined the famous "Havoc" defense. A lot of this defensive success has to do with Nova's ability to turn teams over. The Wildcats are 14th nationally in forced turnovers, but they face an Illinois offense that doesn't cough up the ball very much (only 74 turnovers this season, second-best in the Big Ten.) On top of that, the Illini have the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference, and it has to do with their experienced guard play, including Rice, a senior who has lowered his turnover rate in every season he's played, and junior Aaron Cosby, who has experience against Villanova after playing for Seton Hall during the 2012-13 season. It'll be an interesting dynamic to watch, and the winner could end up emerging victorious once this one is over.