#1 Villanova Wildcats (11-0) vs American University Eagles (3-7)
When: Wednesday, December 21, 2016, at 6:30p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
KenPom Prediction: 82-51, Villanova (99.7%)
American University’s Previous Season Record: 12-19
Key Players for American University: #0 Sa’eed Nelson (6-1, 175) Fr., G; #2 Delante Jones (6-5, 195) So., G/F; #23 Mark Gasperini (6-10, 250) Fr., F
Scouting Report: American gets the bulk of its scoring from a trio of underclassman led by freshman guard Sa’eed Nelson, the team’s leading scorer, who is averaging 16.9 points per game and shooting 47.4 percent from the field. Nelson entered the week as the second-leading scorer in the Patriot League. On the other end of the floor, Nelson has been able to create plenty of pressure on opposing offenses. He is averaging nearly three steals per game, the best in the Patriot League. Sophomore wing Delante Jones and freshman big man Mark Gasperini are scoring 12.3 and 12 points per contest, respectively, and are the only other Eagles averaging double figures. Nelson, Jones, Gasperini, and sophomore guard James Washington are all shooting just above 30 percent or higher from three-point range, a place where the team struggles as a whole. The Eagles are a poor 3-point shooting team, only training 27.9 percent of their long range shots. (340th in Division I) They also struggle from the free throw line, making only 59.0 percent of their foul shots. (349th in Division I) Collectively, American averages just 61.8 points per game. The Eagles’ defense, which has allowed 68.3 points per game, has kept most of their games close, but they simply have not been able to put their opponents away. American was picked fifth in NCAA.com’s Patriot League preseason standings, but has managed to score just three wins so far. On Monday, it picked up a 61-58 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore. After winning back-to-back games for the first time this year, the Eagles will visit the Pavilion as massive underdogs.
Outlook: American will be Villanova’s second Patriot League opponent of the season. The ‘Cats opened the year with a lopsided victory over Lafayette at the Pavilion on Nov. 11. They have won 22 of their last 24 non-conference matchups and are riding a 17-game win streak overall entering Wednesday night’s game. Senior forward Josh Hart has been college basketball’s best player in the month of December. He began the month with a triple-double against St. Joseph’s in the Holy War and has averaged 28 points in the three games since then. On the season, Hart is averaging 20.1 points per game and shooting 56.6 percent from the field. He will have a golden opportunity to continue his elite play on Wednesday in what should be another convincing victory for Villanova.