It’s another Holy War battle, when the Villanova Wildcats and Saint Joseph’s Hawks take the court on Saturday.
Villanova (7-2, 2-0 Big Five) is looking to keep its undefeated status against Philadelphia Big Five teams, as it resumes round robin play. The Wildcats are fresh off of wins over Temple and La Salle.
Meanwhile, St. Joe’s (5-4, 0-1 Big Five) has lost four of its last six games. Although it did get to enjoy a bounce back win against Princeton on Wednesday. The Hawks are looking for their first Big 5 win, after losing to Temple last week.
How To watch, listen, and stream
Game Time: Saturday, December 8, 2018, at 2 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 1 (Dave O’Brien, Vin Parise)
RADIO: 610 ESPN (Villanova), Talk Radio 1210 WPHT (Saint Joseph’s)
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go (where available)
Per Oddsshark.com, the Wildcats are a 11.5-point favorite to beat the Hawks.
KenPom lists Villanova as an 86 percent favorite to win, predicting a final score of 80-68.
The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 49-23. Villanova won the previous meeting last December, taking down St. Joe’s in lopsided fashion, 94-53, to extend its winning streak over the Hawks to six-straight games. The ‘Cats have won nine of the last 10 meetings in this rivalry.
What to Watch For
Six Consecutive Big 5 Titles?
There isn’t a single player on Villanova’s roster that knows what it is like to lose a Big 5 game. The Wildcats currently have a 24-game winning streak against Big 5 opponents, a streak that dates back to Dec. 8, 2012.
During this dominant run against neighboring Philadelphia schools, the Wildcats have met with the Hawks six times. It hasn’t been much of a rivalry as of late, with Villanova beating St. Joe’s by an average margin of victory of 24.7 points. Each matchup has been decided by double figures, except for the 2012 meeting, which was only a four-point game.
Should the Wildcats overcome the Hawks again, that will be their third Big 5 victory of the season, which is enough to clinch at least a share of another Big 5 title. They would then have to beat Penn on Dec. 11 in order to upgrade their standing to an outright title. So far, ‘Nova has beaten the La Salle Explorers and the Temple Owls. A win over St. Joe’s would extend the Wildcats’ winning streak, but also mean another Big 5 crown for ‘Nova.
In doing so, Saturday could be Villanova’s sixth-straight Big 5 title and its 27th overall, which would place the ‘Cats in a tie with Temple for most overall Big 5 titles in the round robin’s history.
As the old saying goes, “They say there’s no trophy for winning the Big 5. They must not be from Philadelphia.”
As for the Hawks, they can possibly play spoiler on Saturday. They’ll look to end Villanova’s win-streak and force the ‘Cats to look elsewhere for a share of the Big 5 title. St. Joe’s lost its only Big 5 game of the year so far, and another loss would put the Hawks mathematically out of the running.
Check Back in a Year...
With the way sophomore forward Charlie Brown and junior Lamarr Kimble are playing, you wouldn’t have guessed that they sat out all of last year nursing injuries. They’ve played without a hitch and without a single worry. They are off to a hot start to begin the year, and while Kimble’s impressive numbers were expected--Brown has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise for the Hawks.
The 6-foot-6 wing is shooting the lights out to start the year. He currently leads the Hawks with 22 points per game and he’s very efficient in the way he’s been attacking the basket. He’s shooting 53.9 percent overall and is converting on 52 percent of his takes from beyond the arc. As for Kimble, he’s picked up from where he left off. He has battled injuries for the last two years and is back as one of the top weapons for the Hawks, after being a leading scorer in his true sophomore season. He’s right behind Brown with 18.0 points per game.
Aside from Brown and Kimble, the Hawks have also gotten some nice contributions from a couple of underclassmen. True sophomore Taylor Funk is averaging similar scoring numbers as last season, entering Saturday with 11.7 points per game, but he has truly improved as a long-range shooter. It’s something that he immediately excelled in and a trait he had long demonstrated in his high school years, but this year he’s shooting an improved 43.8 percent from three-point range. Also keep an eye out for freshman point guard Jared Bynum, who has impressed through his first nine games of college hoops. At 5-foot-10, he’s not the biggest, but he can score and dish out assists like someone beyond his years. Bynum can score from almost anywhere, but his facilitating and the way he’s able to take good care of the ball stands out.
As good as these four are doing so far, the Hawks might be a year away from really making some noise. They only have two seniors, who are towards the end of the rotation. This seems to be a nice core group--along with junior Pierfrancesco Oliva. They’re still acclimated with playing with one another and they have some defensive issues to fix, but a year wiser and older might do them some wonders next season. It’s been a rocky season so far, but this team can be something good later.
This St. Joe’s team is operating at a level that’s close to the 2015-16 squad that won the Atlantic-10, enjoyed a 28-win campaign, and featured former first-round draftee DeAndre Bembry. According to KenPom this is a team that’s in the top 50 in regards to offensive efficiency and with all of it’s skilled players, the Hawks like to push the pace.
While they play very well on offense, what sets this team apart from that successful 2015-16 one is they aren’t as balanced offensively and defensively. This year’s Hawks struggles on defense and that deficiency has been magnified in close losses to West Virginia, William & Mary, and Temple. The Hawks are bottom-50 when it comes to defending the three-point line, allowing opponents to shoot 38.7 percent from deep (317th in the country). They give up an effective field goal percentage of 54.1, which is good for 275th.
Villanova struggled for a majority of the game against Temple, with its offense stalling out for chunks at a time. Against the lackluster defense of the Hawks, this could be a game where ‘Nova gets back on track and gets a variety of players going again--instead of relying on the heroics of one man, which was Jermaine Samuels. Maybe Saturday will mark another Wildcat’s breakout performance. All in all, ‘Nova has been pretty unpredictable, especially compared to recent years, but the numbers and stats suggest that the Wildcats will have an easier time around finding a groove.