#2 Villanova Wildcats (6-0) vs. Penn Quakers (2-2)
When: Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 7 p.m.
Where: The Palestra, Philadelphia, Pa.
Coverage: Comcast SportsNet
KenPom Prediction: 76-60, Villanova (92%)
Penn’s Previous Season Record: 11-17
Key Players for Penn: #25 A.J. Brodeur (6-8, 225) Fr., F; #10 Caleb Wood (6-4, 180) Jr., G; #24 Matt Howard (6-4, 185) Sr., G; #20 Matt MacDonald (6-5, 200) Jr., G
Scouting Report: Penn has alternated wins and losses this season en route to a 2-2 start. Its most recent outing was a tight 70-68 loss to Navy in Annapolis. The Quakers had four players reach double-figure point totals but did not score a point in the game’s final five minutes, resulting in the defeat. The star for Penn thus far has been its freshman forward, A.J. Brodeur. In his first collegiate game, Brodeur recorded a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Quakers over Robert Morris. He is shooting 54.8 percent from the field and has reached double-digit point totals in three of his four games this season. Brodeur and junior guard Caleb Wood are each averaging 13.8 points per game, making them Penn’s top two scorers. Senior guard Matt Howard is just behind them with 13.0 points per game. After that trio, no other Quaker is averaging more than seven. Although Brodeur has been at the center of Penn’s offense early in the season, there are a few players that will require some attention on the perimeter. Wood is shooting 52 percent (13-of-25) from beyond the arc, Howard is 50 percent (6-of-12) and sophomore guard Jackson Donahue hit four three-pointers against Navy. Donahue, who led the team with a team high 37.8 3-point shooting percentage last season, seemed to finally hit his stride against the Midshipmen. He had been struggling from deep going into the Navy game, shooting an ice cold 4-of-21. The Quakers will need him to find the hot hand again if they want a shot at winning, but it won’t be easy. The ‘Cats have held three of their six opponents under 20 percent from distance. Their perimeter defense will tighten up even more if Phil Booth, who missed the last three games with a sore knee, can return in time for this matchup. Following the game against College of Charleston last Wednesday, head coach Jay Wright said that Booth could return this week. If the junior guard suits up against Penn, the ‘Cats will be back at full strength and even more dangerous in their first Big Five game of the season.
Outlook: Although he will not be as much of a matchup problem as were Purdue’s Isaac Haas or UCF’s Tacko Fall, Penn’s big man, Brodeur, will definitely be a key player for the Quakers in this game. He is their most efficient scorer in the paint and has attempted the most field goals (42) and free throws (15) on the team. However, given what ‘Nova forwards Darryl Reynolds, Eric Paschall, and Kris Jenkins have had to deal with already this season, defending Brodeur will be a welcomed challenge. Aside from Brodeur, no other Quaker that is averaging at least 20 minutes of playing time per game is taller than 6-5. While the ‘Cats have not been known as a “big team”, they will certainly have a distinct size advantage in this matchup. Players like Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges, 6-6 and 6-7, respectively, will be matched up against significantly smaller Quaker guards. Penn will likely attempt to feed its talented young big man early. Additionally, it will try to set up open three-point looks for Wood, Howard, and Donahue. If they can get a few of these to fall, it is possible that the Quakers could stick with Villanova for a portion of the first half. Ultimately, though, the Wildcats’ quick, lengthy defense and depth off of the bench should lead them to a decisive victory in The Palestra.