#9 Villanova Wildcats (7-1) vs. La Salle Explorers (4-3)
When: Sunday, December 13, 2015, at 5 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
La Salle Previous Season Record: 17-16
Key Players for La Salle: #21 Jordan Price (6-5, 230) Jr., G; #3 Cleon Roberts (6-6, 180) Jr., G; #5 Tony Washington (6-10, 220) So., C
Scouting Report: In the wake of a blowout loss at the hands of Oklahoma, Villanova returns home on Sunday to face off against La Salle, their second Big 5 opponent of the year. The Explorers have dropped three out of their past four, including a 13 point loss to Drexel. Last year, the Wildcats beat La Salle 84-70.
La Salle is anchored by stat sheet stuffing junior guard Jordan Price. At just under 26 points per game, Price is the second leading scorer in the country. As efficient as he is potent, Price is shooting 53% from the field and 27-of-54 on the long ball. The 6-foot-5, 230 pound guard, has a similar build and playing style as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (6-5, 220). Price even has a Harden-esque beard. Price is very sturdy and well balanced, he can shoot off the catch and the dribble, and he can attack the basket with the best of them. He averages 6.4 free throw attempts per game. He’s not nearly as explosive or dynamic as Harden, but he does show flashes. Price also contributes 4.9 rebounds per game as well.
Once you get past Price, La Salle is not much to write home about. Price is responsible for 35.4% of La Salle’s scoring. The Explorers do shoot the three well, hitting 35% of their shots from long range, but just three players make up for 54 of the teams 56 made threes. La Salle is a very top-heavy team, especially when it comes to scoring. The Explorers really only go seven deep, and Johnnie Shuler and Cleon Roberts are the only other two players scoring in double figure. The Explorers are also weak on the boards (35 rebounds per game), and aren’t the best at taking care of the ball with 14 turnovers per game.
Outlook: The Wildcats should have no problem in this one. Price does bring some star power to the table, but it is worth noting that last year Villanova held him to just 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting. He’s currently enjoying his best season as an Explorer, but it should be interesting how he does this year. Villanova’s ninth ranked scoring defense has stifled opponents all season and should be able to do the same against La Salle.
I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. Villanova shoots an obnoxious amount of threes, and it came back to haunt them (admittedly I did think they would beat Oklahoma). As a matter of fact, The Citadel is the only Division-I squad that attempts more threes per game than the ‘Cats. Not only does Villanova shoot a lot of threes, but they shoot a lot of bad ones as well. Way too many early shot clock threes are being fired up. A team that shoots just 28.6% from beyond the arc should not be taking half their field goal attempts from there. It seems to only be worse on the road. In their last two neutral court games, the ‘Cats have shot just 13-60 from three, which is a problem because they don’t usually play NCAA Tournament games in the Pavilion. I think some line-up and strategy tweaks should be in order. Maybe Jay Wright will try something new later today.
All recent struggles aside, the Wildcats should roll in this one. Josh Hart has been tremendous this year, and he should shine again in this one. Vegas has the ‘Cats by 25. While they might not win by 25, Villanova should cruise into next week’s top ten match-up against Virginia at 8-1.