Villanova and Notre Dame will lead off the first of two games to be played at the Prudential Center as part of the Never Forget Tribute Classic. It is the first time that this event is being held and the Never Forget Tribute Classic is in partnership with the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, which helps support the education of children of the victims of the 9-11 attacks.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Game Time: Saturday, December 10, 2016, at 12 p.m. ET
TV: CBS (Carter Blackburn, Bill Raftery, Jon Rothstein)
Live Stream: CBS All Access (where available)
Villanova is listed as a 6.5-point favorite over Notre Dame, per Oddsshark.com
The Wildcats currently lead the all-time series against the Fighting Irish, 18-16. Notre Dame won the previous meeting, 65-60, on Jan. 30, 2013, when it was still a part of the Big East conference.
What to Watch For
Attention to Detail
This is a Notre Dame team that doesn't make many mistakes. It's a part of the reason why it is off to a 9-0 start, the best in program history. According to KenPom, the Fighting Irish boast the lowest turnover rate in all of Division I, losing the ball on only 11.7 possessions. This really helps them average just under 90 points per game and have one of the top scoring offenses around. Opponents won't want to foul them much, however. Notre Dame also boasts the top free throw shooting percentage in the nation, converting 85.9 percent of foul shots. This is an offense-minded team, and this is demonstrated through every one on Notre Dame's roster having an offensive rating over 100.0 (per KenPom). Mike Brey is 7-4 all-time when coaching against defending National Championship teams, his team will need a mistake-free game against the Wildcats in order to put another win to his record. Having the fewest turnovers and the highest free throw percentage is a good start.
A Star in the Making
Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson is taking a great leap forward. So far this season, the 6-8, 225 pound junior forward is leading the team in scoring and rebounding. He is averaging 17.1 points per game and a conference-best 11.1 boards per game. Colson is a high-energy double-double machine and has been able to obtain one in each of the last six games. At 6-foot-8 he's certainly not the tallest, but he plays with tenacity and a great intensity that will make you overlook the height difference when he goes inside. He is a tough, strong finisher inside--can do so in traffic--and is not afraid to attack the basket on anyone. Colson scores at a high clip and fights for rebounds like his life depends on it. As great as he is, Notre Dame is far from a one-man show, other players are stepping up this season. V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia are both averaging over 16 points per game. Beachem is an all-around scorer and can take and make his shots from anywhere. Vasturia is emerging as a two-way threat, initially known for his defense, but now his offense is catching up. Matt Farrell is the point guard that puts it all together and can quietly have a double digit scoring performance while teams focus on everyone else. He hasn't missed a free throw this season.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Like Notre Dame, Villanova has various weapons it can rely on in order to get the job done on the scoring end. For a team that prides itself on its defense, how the Wildcats do on protecting the basket will be important for Saturday's game. They looked vulnerable against an unranked La Salle, and now they're dealing with a tough offense-oriented Notre Dame that has high-powered scorers. The Fighting Irish take care of the ball very well, they're not going to turn it over. This will test Villanova's ability to play defense--players will have to guard their man, and try not to foul, and send Notre Dame to the line. The Wildcats seemed undisciplined against La Salle--players were overcommitting, getting beat to the basket, and assignments were left wide open. Against a much more talented Notre Dame team, that's not going to work. The Wildcats ability, or inability, to defend will be a strong indicator of how this game will play out.