With the BIG EAST Tournament looming, a big time matchup for seeding purposes awaits on Sunday. Not only that, it could very well determine the regular-season BG EAST Champion. The No. 6 Villanova Wildcats travel to Omaha, Neb. to take on the No. 18 Creighton Bluejays on Sunday evening inside CenturyLink Center Omaha, where the Jays have yet to lose this season.
This is not only a matchup featuring the two best teams in the BIG EAST Conference, but also the two best players as well. Creighton's Doug McDermott and Villanova's James Bell have both been phenomenal in their own right during the 2013-14 campaign.
The stakes could not be any higher. And with that said, I wanted to get an inside look at what could be looming for the Bluejays. So, I did a Q&A, much like last week's with Rumble in the Garden editor-in-chief Norman Pico. This time around, I sought out a member of the VU Hoops staff. Ryan Saccoman (@Villanova2016) was more than willing to take on the opportunity and Big East Coast Bias thanks him for taking the time out to do this.
1. Since the rather ridiculous loss to Creighton last month, Villanova has gone 6-0 and had an average margin of victory of 15.83 points. What's been the biggest reason for this dominant play as of late?
You can't ignore their easy strength of schedule since the Creighton game. With games against Temple, Seton Hall and DePaul, a good stretch is expected. However, defense has been a big key also. Defense from all over. DePaul's front court only had 16 points. Marquette's starting back court had 6. Temple's bench only had 9 points. Xavier was held to 58 points, 15 below their season average. It's inconsistent as to where the defense comes, but the tough D is consistent.
2. James Bell has been dynamic this season and is coming off of a very good performance against DePaul on Wednesday. What stood out to you in this performance, and how can he build off of it against Creighton this Sunday?
He's a leader. He really has taken his role of senior well. He's had good games and bad, however he always contributes no matter what and has no problem with that. Against DePaul, Hilliard was on fire shooting 78%. So, Bell did his thing (16 points) but also contributed with 8 boards. And dished 4 assists. On top of that, he had 2 blocks. We're not done. He goes perfect from the charity stripe to culminate to an 90% night for the Wildcats. As long as he continues this leadership, he can fill any void any push the team to victory.
3. What type of defensive game plan do you expect Jay Wright to implement against the Bluejays this time around, having learned from their mistakes last month?
COVER YOUR MAN. I don't see any difference in defensive style to be honest. Sure if Ethan Wragge pulls up from the opposing foul line, there's nothing you can do. However, there were many times where Wragge or McDermott were left wide open because Pinkston or Ochefu were pulled away from their men. Tighter defense is the biggest key.
4. Who or what is an X-Factor for Villanova that could make a splash in this game that is flying under the radar?
I've been with this strategy the whole year, and part of me still believes it. Forcing Villanova to shoot an absurd amount of threes is their weakness. The Syracuse game is a perfect display of that. Villanova starts hot from 3. Hence, they want to stick with it. Villanova lost their touch, but stubbornly continued with the threes. That equated to a 10-31 affair. Sometimes the threes go in- look at the Providence win where they went 14/26- however it usually is to the demise of the Wildcats.
5. Be honest; you want Creighton to face Syracuse in the tournament, just to see how the Bluejays play against their zone defense, don't you?
If they shoot the way they did against us the last time, Creighton would LOVE the challenge of shooting it long. I'll put money on the line that the game is close, though; Syracuse can't blow anyone out! Except Villanova.
6. Give us a prediction for this matchup.
With Villanova on a hot streak, and Creighton looking gloomy the past week, I'll take Villanova here. Creighton's fan base will come out loud, and it would not shock me if the Bluejays come out hot from behind the arc. However, I believe the Wildcats will come back to form and ultimately finish on top, giving Creighton their first home loss. I'll predict a high scoring affair of 80-73.