It took overtime and heroics from Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil for Villanova to finally suffer its first Big East conference loss. The Wildcats won't have to deal with Dunn and Bentil on Sunday, but they will have to take the floor against another Big East foe and this time, its on the road.
Luckily for the 'Cats, the opponent on the other side doesn't boast a Player of the Year candidate and a national ranking. St. John's has been grinding along to no avail since the Big East conference schedule kicked in, with eight losses in as many tries. That doesn't mean Chris Mulllin's squad will just turn over and die Sunday afternoon, but a lot will have to go right for the Red Storm to pull off the upset of the year.
How to watch, listen, stream or experience via VR
Game time: 12 p.m. ET
TV: FOX Sports
Radio: 610 Sports (Villanova) || 970 AM WNYM (St. John's)
Stream: Fox Sports Go (where available)
VR: Still in development.
Line: Villanova is favored by 20 points. (Via OddsShark)
Record ATS: Villanova 10-9, St. John's 7-14
Three things to watch
1. Protect the Paint. Protect the Ball
If Villanova had a been a bit more careful with the ball and a bit tougher down low, it probably would have topped the Friars. The 'Cats turned the ball over 17 times and gave up 20 points off of those miscues. In addition, they were out-rebounded 39-32, outscored 40-28 in the paint and 18-9 on second-chance points. Admittedly, Villanova is not stocked with a host of frontcourt power, but Daniel Ochefu is easily the best post player in Sunday's contest and one of the better frontcourt players in the conference at large. The 'Cats won't change their entire game plan, but hopefully they will learn their lesson and be more aggressive down low. As far as the turnover problems, Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson have generally been more careful and Kris Jenkins (7.7 percent) leads the Big East in turnover percentage.
2. First and Worst
One of these teams is the best defensive team in Big East play. The other is the worst. Want to take a guess which is which? Villanova is allowing only 65.5 points per game (tops in the league ) to conference foes on just 40.4 percent shooting. The 'Cats are also 14th in the nation in opponent field goal percentage (.38.4 percent) overall.
Now let me tell you a different tale. The Red Storm is last in the league in scoring defense (80.8 PPG) and opponent field goal percentage (48.1 percent). Making matters worse, St. John's isn't exactly an offensive power itself. It has lost three of its last four games by at least 19 points and is only putting up 67.5 points per game when Big East foes come around.
3. Old Friends
This is one of those times when we get to bask in the glow of the original Big East. St. John's and Villanova are two of the longest holdovers from the original group, with St. John's an inaugural member and the 'Cats joining in 1980, the league's second year in existence. Over the last 20 years or so, Villanova has been the much more dominant force, but St. John's still leads the all-time series 59-51. However, the Red Storm hasn't added to that total since 2011.