After running through the Connecticut Huskies at Madison Square Garden over one week ago, the Villanova Wildcats return to action and open Big East play at home.
Coach Dave Leitao and his DePaul Blue Demons will travel to Finneran Pavilion on Wednesday night. Villanova has opened conference action against DePaul three straight seasons in a row. Two years ago, the Blue Demons nearly upset the Wildcats in Philadelphia, only to be stopped by the heroics of Josh Hart. Last season, Villanova began Big East play with a convincing victory in Chicago.
DePaul enters this contest with an 8-4 record and currently riding a two-game losing streak. After two frustrating losses at home against Boston College and Xavier respectively, the Blue Demons look to right the ship in Philadelphia, and secure their first Big East win this season. DePaul has not beaten Villanova since 2007, when they outlasted the Wildcats by a 73-65 score at the Wells Fargo Center.
Villanova on the other hand enters this game with a 9-4 record. Looking back on their nonconference slate, it was inconsistent more so than anything else. Some of the more disappointing outcomes include losses to Furman and Penn. Nevertheless, they picked up a few nice wins against teams like Oklahoma State, Florida State, Temple, and UConn.
The Wildcats will be rejoined by sophomore guard Collin Gillespie. He had missed their last game against UConn with a head injury, but has practiced with the team this week and should play against DePaul. He is averaging about 12 points along with 3 rebounds and assists per game this season. Gillespie will rejoin a Villanova backcourt that is lead by senior guard Phil Booth. So far this season, Booth has looked like one of the best players in the Big East. He is averaging around 17 points and 3 assists per game. His best performance of the season came on the road against Kansas, in which he scored 29 points while shooting 52% from the field. Another key player for Villanova is Eric Paschall who is averaging around 15 points and 6 rebounds per contest. He exploded in the second half against UConn, and can create problems for opposing big men.
As for DePaul, they are led by senior guard Max Strus. So far this season he has averaged about 19 points and 8 rebounds per game, while shooting 43% from the field. The Blue Demons backcourt is complimented well with the presence of another senior guard Eli Cain. He is averaging around 14 points per contest while shooting nearly 38% from beyond the arc.
Knocking off the defending national champions on their homecourt is a tall task for anybody. Considering DePaul has not beaten Villanova in 12 years, I’d say the chances are even more slim. Nevertheless, with an experienced Blue Demons backcourt operating at full capacity, DePaul could give the Wildcats a tough Big East opener.
How To Watch
Time: 8:30 PM ET/7:30 PM CT
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go