#14 Villanova Wildcats (7-0) vs. Penn Quakers (2-4)
When: Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 8 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Penn Previous Season Record: 9-22
Key Players for Penn: #1 Tony Hicks (6-2, 170) So., G; #10 Darien Nelson-Henry (6-11, 265) So., C; #12 Fran Dougherty (6-8, 225) Sr., F
Scouting Report: For the most part, the Penn Quakers are a young team. They underwent a rough 9-22 season a year ago and are looking to improve upon it. The Quakers have returned every player from last year’s team, and are building upon what they have done. They are a team anchored by a strong sophomore and junior class. Sophomore guard Tony Hicks is enjoying a great season. He received significant playing time last season, and has certainly stepped up his game this season. Hicks is leading the Quakers in scoring, averaging 19 points per game. He is capable of scoring in many ways, and will take many shots. In each of the games he has played so far this season, he has put up double digits in scoring. Hicks can shoot it from long range and is very streaky. If he can establish a groove in shooting it from long range, he can make the shot quite often. His weakness is that he can turn the ball over quite often, averaging 3.5 turnovers a game. The Quakers do not have a true point guard, they will run the offense through Hicks and at times look to him to manage the floor. Another sophomore that has been enjoying a much-improved season is center Darien Nelson-Henry. At this point in the season, Nelson-Henry has nearly doubled his scoring averages from last season. He currently averages 13.2 points per game. He is also a solid rebounder and is the best that Penn has to offer when it comes to grabbing boards; averaging 7.5 rebounds per game. He is also not someone that should be fouled and taken to the line. Penn is an all-around good free throw shooting team, Nelson-Henry can get the job done when it comes to fouls in the paint. He is shooting 77.8% from the free throw line. He displayed his skills from the line against Iowa, where he shot a perfect 11 for 11. As for the heart of the team? Sure, Hicks may be the top scorer on the team, but senior Fran Dougherty brings it all together. Last season, Dougherty was a contender for the Ivy League Player of the Year before missing large intervals of the season to injury. His numbers may not be top notch right now, but he is still the leader of this team and a capable scorer (averaging 11 points per game and a 57.1 shooting percentage). He is coming off of a 26 point performance against Lafayette. He can also help in the paint where he can contribute in rebounding. Sophomore guards Julian Harrell and Jamal Lewis provide valuable minutes off of the bench. They add depth and can do a little of everything.
Outlook: Penn, is Penn, ’nuff said. Villanova should do just fine against the Quakers. Against common opponents, they lost to Lafayette by 3. They also went to Iowa, where they received a 31 point beatdown. With that said, the Wildcats will win this one comfortably. They simply have more talent across the board and have been hot lately. On offense, the Wildcats have many scoring options that Penn won’t have the athleticism and ability to keep up with. Defensively, they will wreak havoc on defense with the press against the turnover-prone Quakers. Hicks will be pushed outside his comfort zone and if he can be contained, the game is won. This is the first game Villanova has entered in the Top 25 in a while. Coach Jay Wright will have his team conditioned to know that being ranked is just a number. Hopefully they won’t let the ranking get to their heads, and that there won’t be a letdown after a fantastic week. Battle 4 Atlantis is over and done with. In order to preserve their Top 25 status, they can’t look past any opponent and win one game at a time. There shouldn’t be another Ivy League disaster like the last time an Ivy school came to play at the Pavilion…