To the big game tomorrow. Villanova has not lost at home this year, but have played only one quality opponent in Pittsburgh. In road/neutral games, they are 4-4 with losses to NC State, DePaul, Cincy, and Rutgers. Certainly the weakest of our first three road opponents.
The scorers to watch are Scottie Reynolds, Shane Clark, and Malcolm Grant off the bench. The rest of the minute-eating players are pretty inefficient as a whole, scoring less than 110 points per 100 possessions. Contrast that with Notre Dame, who only has two players (Hillesland and Tory) under 110. Reynolds and freshman Corey Fisher are big-time possession users, averaging 25% a piece.
As a team Villanova has a similar pace, 70.3 possessions per game (Notre Dame- 70.5), but is much less efficient on both ends of the floor, 110.5 points per 100 possessions on offense (Notre Dame- 112.4) and 99.5 on defense (Notre Dame- 92.2). Their effective FG% (weighted for 3-point shots) is 50.8% (Notre Dame- 51.9%) and the Wildcats allow 52.4% of effective points (Notre Dame- 45.2%). So far, Notre Dame is up in all statistics.
Go to rebounding, where Villanova is very effective at grabbing offensive boards, snatching 38.2% (Notre Dame- 39.2%). The Wildcats are less effective at preventing offensive rebounds, so look for the Irish to take advantage on the offensive glass, Villanova- 31.2% (Notre Dame- 28.1%).
They do allow opponents to the line a lot and are 315th in defensive free throw rate. The Irish are only slightly above average on this statistic on offense (103rd), but have the 5th fewest free throw rate in the country on defense. Teams don't get to the line a lot against the Irish. Even when they do, our opponents shoot a low percentage from the stripe.
To the more conventional stats (check out kenpom.com for any more information about the stuff in earlier paragraphs). Reynolds is the main scorer, at 17 points a game. He can also pass the ball, averaging 4.1 assists per contest. Fisher and Dante Cunningham are the only other two averaging more than 10 points a game. Cunningham is the rebounder, at 7.3 per, while Clark will help him out under the basket.
Overall, this is a game we should win. It is our first true away contest against an overmatched opponent. Pomeroy gives the Irish a 66% chance to win. If we can pull out this victory and set a standard for the rest of the year on the road, things are certainly looking up. Even a close loss would be forgivable and a step in the right direction. Let's hope we don't even have to discuss the consequences of a third straight road defeat of 19 points or more.