#8 Villanova Wildcats (6-0) vs. Saint Joseph’s Hawks (4-1)
When: Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 7 p.m.
Where: Hagan Arena, Philadelphia, PA
Coverage: CBS Sports Network
Saint Joseph’s Previous Season Record: 13-18
Key Players for St. Joe’s: #43 DeAndre Bembry (6-6, 210) Jr., G/F; #15 Isaiah Miles (6-7, 227) Sr., F; #2 Aaron Brown (6-5, 223) Sr., G
Scouting Report: Villanova will make the short journey to Philadelphia on Tuesday night to tip off December and Big Five play against Saint Joseph’s University. Jay Wright is 10-4 in his career against the Hawks, and hasn’t lost to them since 2011. The match-up that has given us so many timeless classics has been very lopsided the past two years with Villanova winning both games by at least 28.
St. Joe’s is all about junior swingman DeAndre Bembry. Bembry has garnered attention from pro scouts due to his length, athleticism, and scoring versatility. He could potentially sneak into the second round of this summer’s NBA Draft. Bembry loves to run up the court, and is a terrific finisher at the rim. He is also a capable shooter, despite the cold 1-11 start he’s gotten off to this season from beyond the arch. The Charlotte product is very active without the ball and has the ability to come off screens and hit deep threes. Bembry is very unselfish and a terrific defender. He has led the Hawks in both assists and steals the past two seasons. This season, he’s averaging 14.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game.
Two of St. Joe’s top four scorers are seniors who would love to notch their first win against Nova. Isaiah Miles is the man in the middle, and paces the Hawks with 7.4 rebound and 2.2 blocks per game. Miles can also stretch the floor with his shooting ability. With 80 career threes, he is the best shooter on the team. Local product Aaron Brown is a solid rebounder at 6-foot-6 and is steadily improving throughout his career.
Saint Joe’s also has Italian bigman Pierfrancesco Oliva. Oliva does a little bit of everything for the Hawks. He’s third on the team in rebounding, second in assists, second in blocks, and also scores 8.2 per game. The freshman has even showed some range, hitting five threes so far this year. He’s been a huge addition to a very small team. Lamarr Kimble is another impact frosh for the Hawks. Although prone to foul trouble, Kimble has delivered some big minutes as Saint Joes’ backup point guard.
When you get right down to it, this Hawks team does not do a lot of things well. They’re a middle of the road defensive and rebounding team, ranking 128th and 150th in the country, respectively. St. Joe’s also doesn’t move the ball well, averaging just 12.2 assists per game on 10.6 turnovers. Perhaps the worst facet of this team is their three-point shooting. The Hawks have just one player (Miles) who is shooting over over 30% this year. At 23.7%, Saint Joe’s is the fifth worst three-point shooting team in the country so far. The Hawks will need to find the bottom of the net, if they want to have any chance at beating Villanova.
Outlook: As in recent years, this game looks to be lopsided. If Villanova comes out energized and focused they should have no problem with St. Joe’s. With that being said, there is something about a rivalry game that brings out the best in some players. Intense competition can drive underdogs to spectacular performances. The bad blood runs deep enough between these schools, that a scrappy Hawks team could come out with a surprise herculean effort. Talent-wise, Villanova is the superior team though.
Daniel Ochefu has seen a significant drop in his numbers over the past three games. Now that he is matching up against bigger,stronger players, the double-doubles aren’t flowing like water. He still has had his moments, including a five block performance against Stanford despite foul trouble. St. Joes’ tallest rotational player is 6-foot-8, offering a chance for the Chef to have a Bobby Flay-like performance.
Jalen Brunson has been a relief wrapped in a breath of fresh air wrapped in a silver lining on a team that shoots way too many threes. Brunson shined on the national stage at the NIT Season Tip-Off and took home MVP honors. He is proving to be a versatile scorer. He’s a terrific slasher who can put up points with that silky left-hand finish, while being able to knock them down from long range. Brunson is an unselfish, smart player who can get the ‘Cats buckets when the long balls aren’t falling. Shooting only 24 three pointers this season, Brunson has shown great poise and shot selection for such a young player. Look for him to have a big night against a St. Joe’s team who doesn’t have a true point guard.
Like I mentioned before, if Villanova come out and executes while maintaining a healthy respect for their opponent, they should have no problem with the Hawks. I think Nova will do just that, and the Cats will roll into Pearl Harbor 7-0 to take on Oklahoma in what might be their biggest game of the year.