Xavier at Villanova
Back at the top of the polls, Villanova could have a short stay at No. 1 if it can’t solve Xavier when the Big East powers collide Wednesday. The host Wildcats have not been at their best defensively of late, while the 10th-ranked Musketeers are looking to rebound from a disappointing effort at Providence.
Xavier had won 10 in a row before scoring 72 points – its second-lowest total of the season – in Saturday’s setback against the Friars, who suffocated the Musketeers’ backcourt players throughout the contest. The Xavier guards, a group that includes Trevon Bluiett, shot a collective 13-of-39 against Providence with Bluiett shooting 40 percent or worst for the sixth time in seven games. Villanova has one of the best guard rotations in the country led by Jalen Brunson, who had 27 points and eight assists in Saturday’s 100-90 win against Marquette. Brunson helped the Wildcats defeat the Musketeers by a combined 41 points in two meetings last season, and Villanova has taken 24 of the 29 all-time matchups.
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ABOUT XAVIER (15-2, 3-1 Big East): Despite his recent shooting slump, Bluiett is still shooting 45.3 percent – a career high for the senior swingman, who also is setting personal bests from the 3-point line (41.7) and the foul line (85.9). Fellow senior J.P. Macura (13.1 points) also is setting career highs in all three categories, while recording 27 steals – as many as his next two highest teammates combined. Kerem Kanter was the team’s best player against Providence, shooting 10-of-15 from the floor for a season-best 24 points and pulling down 12 boards.
ABOUT VILLANOVA (14-1, 2-1): The Wildcats are seventh in the nation in scoring (88.9 points per game), but their defense only ranks 117th at 69.8 points allowed per contest, and the team has given up 92 points per game over its last three contests. Brunson paces Villanova at 19.4 points per game and shoots 49.3 percent from the arc, not to mention a sizzling assist-to-turnover ratio approaching 4-to-1. Mikal Bridges adds 17.8 points and has exceeded that average in four straight games while draining multiple 3-pointers in each of those contests.
1. Villanova G Donte DiVincenzo has scored in double figures in six straight games after doing so just five times in his first nine contests.
2. Since scoring a career-high 27 points against Temple, Wildcats freshman F Omari Spellman has watched his point totals decrease gradually from 27 to 19 to 12 to six to only two points versus Marquette.
3. Xavier coach Chris Mack needs one win to tie the program’s all-time mark, currently held by Pete Gillen (202).