#12 Villanova Wildcats (8-1) vs. #8 Virginia Cavaliers (8-1)
When: Saturday, December 19, 2015, at 12 p.m.
Where: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
Virginia’s Previous Season Record: 30-4, Lost to Michigan State in Round of 32 in NCAA Tournament
Key Players for Virginia: #15 Malcolm Brogdon (6-5, 215) Sr., G; #13 Anthony Gill (6-8, 230) Sr., F; #32 London Perrantes (6-2, 192) Jr., G
Scouting Report: The Cavaliers are led by two time All-ACC First Teamer Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon has been the main driving force for the Cavaliers since his sophomore year at Charlottesville. The 6-foot-5 guard has the tools to succeed on both ends of the floor. He’s an excellent all-around player, who can score in a variety of ways. He can attack the basket and get points that way, or he can drain his shots from beyond the arc, where he has been steadily getting better over the years. Brogdon boasts a team-high 16.9 points per game, shooting 47.5% overall and a respectable 38.6% from long range. On defense, his 6-10 wingspan is ideal for coach Tony Bennett‘s stingy defensive schemes. He headlines a strong perimeter defense filled with a handful of lengthy guards at the perimeter.
Moving inside, Anthony Gill is the man to watch. Gill is right behind Brogdon in scoring, with 13.4 points per game. He’s also the top rebounder on the team, grabbing 6.4 boards per game. Gill is an efficient scorer inside and has eclipsed the double-digit mark in every game so far this season. He’s a little undersized at 6-foot-8, but he is a tough and scrappy player in the post. He can rumble and rebound with the big men out there. He’s coming off of his best performance of the season, a double-double performance, with 20 points and 12 rebounds. He is the main man inside, as the Cavaliers have been unable to find a consistent performer at the center position. The Cavaliers only have two players taller than 6-9 in freshman Jack Salt and senior Mike Tobey. Salt starts at center, but doesn’t do a whole lot. He averages just a shade over 10 minutes per game, scoring only 3.1 points per game and 1.6 rebounds per game. As for Tobey, the hulking 7-foot and 260 pound center, he often gets into foul trouble. He averages 7.4 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Also keep an eye out for London Perrantes. Perrantes missed two games earlier in the month after getting his appendix removed but came back just in time to play two top 15 teams in West Virginia and Villanova. He provides a long range threat as Virginia’s best perimeter shooter. So far this season, he is 14-of-26 (53.8%) from three-point range. He didn’t skip a beat in the win over West Virginia, going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
Last but not least, watch for Darius Thompson and Isaiah Wilkins. Thompson rounds off the starting lineup. In his first season as a Cavalier, he’s shown to be a reliable guard on both ends. He doesn’t light up the stat sheet, but he has shown that he can drive inside or even pull up from long range. He’s a quick guard and is great at scoring in transition. Wilkins provides depth at the front court and can grab rebounds and chip in a few points in the limited amount of minutes he gets per game.
Outlook: This will be a tough test for Villanova, but the test that it needs. Outside of Oklahoma and Virginia, the Wildcats’ out of conference schedule isn’t that challenging. They will have a chance to grab a big win before conference play. This is the first part of a home-and-home series that will be played at Virginia this year to start it off. The Cavaliers have straightened themselves out since being upset by George Washington in the second game of the season. They haven’t lost since and will look to extend that winning streak.
Virginia will be very tough to beat at home. It’s no secret that the Cavaliers are great defensively and have shown that they have no problems with adjusting to varying tempos of the game. For the Wildcats to get the win, Daniel Ochefu will be the most important player on the floor. Ochefu cannot get into foul trouble and will have to hold down the paint. He has a size advantage over Gill and will need to collect rebounds and minimize the number of offensive rebounds allowed. He is more talented than the Virginia centers that are his size and will need to reinforce that Saturday. He was assertive in the win against La Salle and will need that attitude again for Virginia.
The Wildcats looked like their old selves in the win against La Salle. Although the Explorers are inferior competition, it felt like the first time Villanova looked impressive in a win all season long. Sure they have blown out teams earlier in the season, but the ball movement and shot selection was so fluid in the La Salle game – reminiscent of what made last year’s team so successful.
There weren’t many early in the shot clock three pointers taken, they mixed it up by driving it inside, they took the time to set up their shot by getting every man on the floor to touch the ball. It was fine, crisp basketball. They were patient and the shots fell from inside and outside. It resulted in a win and great games from Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson. It was clear that the ‘Cats learned something from the Oklahoma game.
However, I don’t think one game is enough time to really get their game corrected in time for a formidable Virginia squad. Villanova will have to set the bar at 70 points, as it is undefeated in the last 31 games where ‘Nova scored that many points. The game will most likely not go that high. Virginia is a tough, tough team at home. The Cavaliers will punish the Wildcats if they are haphazard with the ball or if they take bad shots. I see it being closer than the Oklahoma game, but the home court advantage and the lockdown defense will be two great hurdles to overcome. The Wildcats need to be patient and move the ball around to find the open man or they will take themselves out of the game if they force it up.
Jay Wright‘s efforts to schedule tougher out of conference opponents are applauded and needed, but maybe next year when the series goes back to Philadelphia.