#1 Villanova Wildcats (31-2) vs. #6 Xavier Musketeers (21-12)
When: Saturday, March 14, 2015, at 8 p.m.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Results of Previous Meetings:
–Villanova won 88-75 at home on January 14
–Villanova won 78-66 at Xavier on February 28
Key Players for Xavier: #40 Matt Stainbrook (6-10, 263) Sr., C; #5 Trevon Bluiett (6-6, 215) Fr., F; #1 Jalen Reynolds (6-9, 232) So., F
Scouting Report: Xavier is making the magic happen. The sixth seeded Musketeers have produced back-to-back upsets to get to where they are now. These wins haven’t come easy. The Musketeers had to go into overtime to beat the Butler Bulldogs. Last night it seemed like they were going to cruise to the finish line, until Georgetown made their 20 point lead disappear. Musketeers were able to gut it out in the end and win the game. It all began with the man in the middle, Matt Stainbrook. Stainbrook had an impressive 20 points and nine rebounds in the win against Georgetown. He has turned up the intensity this postseason and will look to continue his success so far. Stainbrook is not the most athletic person out there, but his basketball IQ and attention to detail for his technique allows him to compete with the best of them down low. He has a sweet jump hook that he uses as his go-to finishing move around the basket. While Stainbrook had a great game, one glaring flaw was his ability to handle the ball. There were a number of times that the ball was easily poked loose or slapped out of his hands. He had a few turnovers that were a result of a quick double team. Watch out for Trevon Bluiett, Xavier’s top scorer. Bluiett can score from almost anywhere. This season, he averages 12.1 points per game. He’s been relatively quiet these last few games, but you don’t want to test him. Once he heats up, he will make opponents pay for giving him the opportunity. He creates matchup problems with his size and quickness. He has the speed to beat out big men and the size to dominate smaller guards. Also watch out for Jalen Reynolds, he comes off the bench but plays starter minutes. Reynolds is a tough, scrappy forward. He is an excellent rebounder and a great finisher around the basket. He is strong and will not be pushed around easily. Reynolds sometimes lets his emotions spill onto the court, but that’s just a reminder of the chip on his shoulder that he plays with. This season, Reynolds has been a problem for Villanova. Reynolds has a combined 29 points against the Wildcats. As for the rest of the team, it would be remiss to say that they are nothing special. Xavier also uses a team-first approach to the game. The Musketeers average the seventh most assists per game in the NCAA, with 16.7 per game. J.P. Macura, a three point specialist, left the Georgetown game early due to an ankle injury. He did not return in the second half. Only time will tell if he plays in tomorrow’s game or not.
Outlook: This is it. Villanova is in control of its own destiny. With Virginia and Duke taking losses last night, it’s up to the Wildcats to solidify their place as a one-seed. Maybe they move up from there. While Xavier has been able to show its resilience and toughness during close-game situations, it may not have what it takes to keep up with the Wildcats. Villanova has beaten them comfortably in both regular season meetings. The Musketeers are going to come in fired up and motivated. The Wildcats have to take it to them early and race out to a quick lead. In doing so, the Musketeers’ momentum and confidence from these last two wins will subside. Xavier has nothing to lose, while Villanova has more than a conference title at stake. The Wildcats need to shut down the interior first, slowing down Stainbrook and Reynolds. I can’t see Villanova losing here. It’s been a great run for Xavier but I think the Wildcats wake back up after today’s close call with Providence. Another big game for Josh Hart and he has to be the Big East Tournament MVP.