How to Watch
When: 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
TV: FS1 (Gus Johnson, Bill Raftery)
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Radio: 610 Sports (Villanova), 700 WLW (Xavier)
Villanova is favored by -9, according to OddsShark.
Villanova leads the all-time series, with 22 wins and 5 losses. This is the first meeting at Wells Fargo Arena.
At the Pavillion, the Wildcats have easily topped Xavier by an average of over 20 points a game. Besides their sole win leading up to (and perhaps kick-starting) Villanova’s championship run, Xavier has repeatedly lost to the Wildcats for years. That game seems to have been an anomaly, and was acknowledged as such to the Cincinnati Enquirer last year after an early Villanova/Xavier match-up. Xavier head coach Chris Mack referred to his programs latest loss as “the annual Villanova ass kicking” saying that he was “getting really tired of it” (via Cincinnati Enquirer).
While both teams are obviously going to aim to stay out of foul trouble, the need is a little more desperate for Villanova. To see why fouls hurt the top-ranked team in the nation look no further than what happened last Saturday when Omari Spellman had four fouls, and therefore only played a total of 14 minutes. The 6’9” forward is usually the leading rebounder by far for the Wildcats, but was only able to grab two out of the 30 Villanova caught versus Marquette, who managed to out rebound ‘Nova that game, somewhat unsurprisingly. Another big reason Villanova can’t afford to get into foul trouble brings me to what may be the key to Xavier defeating the top ranked Wildcats.
Is it too early to reminisce about when I bragged about Villanova having depth? With Samuels and Gillespie in matching casts on their left arms, that depth has gone down the drain. The Wildcats are playing so many good teams in such a good conference - it’s almost certain they’ll lose another game. This probably won’t be that second loss of their 2017-2018 season, but very well could be. Xavier has no idea what it feels like to lack depth this season. Seniors J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett head the Musketeers, with the latter being put on the Julius Erving Award watchlist, and making over 40% of his three-point shots this season. Beyond those two Xavier has six or seven reliable guys they can pull off the bench when needed - most notably their point guard Quentin Goodin. The sophomore could cause some serious trouble at the end of the game when the Villanova defense is tired and Goodin has fresh legs thanks to Xavier’s nine man rotation. This leaves the Wildcat point guard, Jalen Brunson, to answer Quentin Goodin. In the Wildcat’s latest win over Marquette, the Junior scored 27 points, grabbed 8 assists, and went 9/11 from the free throw line, so tired legs or not I’ll be surprised if Brunson still doesn’t dominate the game.