Muskies Can't Handle Villanova!! Three Big East Road Tilts Next!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 2/13/2017

Depleted Xavier(now 18-7 overall,8-4 Big East and 12-2 at home) gave terrific effort,but succumbed to Villanova's excellent execution Saturday afternoon in front of an SRO crowd(10,558) at Cintas Center. VU(now 11-2 in the Big East and 24-2 overall) posted a 73-57 win padding their conference lead to 2 and a half games over XU and Creighton(both 8-4). Nova plays again Monday night at DePaul. It was a "Good News" day for the defending NCAA Champion Wildcats. They delivered head coach Jay Wright his 500th career victory. They were revealed as the Number One NCAA Tournament seed in the Selection Committee's early snap shot released Saturday at 12:30PM and they overcame the short term loss of starting Center Darryl Reynolds(brusied ribs in practice) to beat XU on the road.

The Muskies came out punching-rebounding scrapping . They had forged a 12-11 lead using primarily brute force through the first 7 plus minutes when Trevon Bluiett went down in a heap aggravating an ankle injury he'd been nursing since Seton Hall( 10 days earlier).Villanova promptly embarked on a 9-0 run draining 3 "threes" as they dissected various Xavier zone defenses.

Bluiett was examined and retaped and tried to play,but his movement was restricted. Trevon had averaged 25PPG over the last 6 (XU 5-1 in that span). He was a non-factor vs VU(0 points,0 rebounds,4 turnovers in 19 gimpy minutes). Tre's status for the game at Providence(Wednesday night-6:30 FoxSports1) is unknown.

VILLANOVA ADAPTED!!

The Wildcats used a small line-up and basically 6 players. Eric Paschal(Fordham transfer) replaced Reynolds in the starting line-up. He ran into foul trouble. RS Frosh Donte DiVincenzo played huge minutes off the bench and killed XU(17 points-5-7FG-3 made threes and 4-4FTs). His guard running mate Soph Jalen Brunson was virtuoso(17 points-7 assists-4 rebounds). Donte threw the long range daggers and Brunson attacked the rim with his crafty lefty dribble drives.

They took turns defending Muskie Frosh PG Quentin Gooden. "Q" played gamely (all 40 minutes) and took the ball aggressively to the bucket. He dished out 6 assists with just 2 turnovers and pulled down 6 rebounds,but he was hounded into 1-14 shooting. It was a Graduate Level course in lead guard play for Quentin which will enhance his development.Xavier won the rebound numbers in a landslide(42-26 overall-22-5 on the offensive glass).

Rashid Gaston was dominant inside(23 points-10 rebounds). Tyrique Jones snared 8 boards in 9 minutes. His combination of knee and ankle injuries are limiting his time. Coach Mack might have tried playing Rashid and Tyrique together if injuries had not been a factor. Kaiser Gates did damage inside also(5 points-7 rebounds). J.P. Macura played all 40 minutes with maximum hustle(17 points-7 assists-4 rebounds).

HOW DID VU WIN BY 16??

They seldom miss a chance to stick the knife in. Nova made 10 of 11 FTs while X left a ton of points at the line(9-17). Xavier cut the lead to 49-42 with under 12 to play. The crowd was into it. X got out on a break and PG Gooden missed a lay-up. VU countered-ran smart offense and Kris Jenkins buried a "3". A lightening 5 point swing and a 10 point Villanova lead!!

The Wildcats are a template to emulate-a program with a process. Josh Hart and Reynolds and Jenkins will graduate,but Guard Phil Booth will be ready off a red shirt season as will 6-10 Omari Spellman. DiVincenzo may move into the staring line-up giving them PG 1 and 1A with Brunson. 6-10 Dylan Painter will be fully ready to play. Coach Wright has signed two terrific recruits(Da-Da Crosby-Roundtree at 6-9 and Jermaine Samuels at 6-6).And Ryan Arcidiacano's brother Chris is a 6-3 High School Junior who wears #15 like his brother and scored 33 the other night. Think he might be in the pipeline???

SCOUTING PROVIDENCE:

The PC Friars(15-11overall,5-8 Big East) are much improved from the team Xavier drilled 82-56 in the Big East Opener at Cintas on December 28th. The Muskies pounded them on the boards 38-20 and scored at will inside and off the fastbreak. Bluiett and Edmond Sumner combined for 35 points. Ed obviously is out. Trevon may not be available. PC veterans Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright both struggled in Cincy(10 points between them).

Coach Ed Cooley has introduced three Freshmen into the rotation now to take the pressure off the vets. 6-7 Guard Alpha Diallo has started the last 10 games and is playing 30 minutes. He's long and fast and gets to the FT line a ton, Diallo makes PG Cartwright who's one of the top assist guys in the BE more dangerous as a scorer. 6-9 Canadian Kalif Young is a BIG BODY now playing around 15 minutes. 6-2 Guard Maliek White is getting time also.

George Mason transfer 6-6 guard Isaiah Jackson scored 17 against Xavier at Cintas. He played well(8 points-3 assists-3 rebounds) off the bench in Provi's 71-65 win over Butler last Saturday at the sold-out Dunkin' Doughnuts Center.Cooley has been patient and he's developed some depth to compliment Bullock(16.8PPG) and Cartwright(11PPG-8 assists) and IU transfer Emmitt Holt(6-7,230)(12PPG-6REBs) and three point sniper Jalen Lindsey(6-7 Junior-50% from 3 in BE-10PPG).

PC still struggles rebounding(minus 3). The defense is a work in progress with all the young players. The Friars started 1-4 in the Big East,but they've gone 4-4 since with two of those losses to Villanova. PC beat Marquette recently in Milwaukee and lost in OT to Seton Hall in Newark. This is an improved deeper PC Friar team. Color them dangerous!! They're 12-3 at home including 3-3 in the Big East. Ken Pom picks Xavier but only by 70-69. Bluiett's availability is a real wild card.

NEW NUMBERS!!

The NCAA RPI through games of Sunday Feb 12th show Villanova #2,Butler #12,Xavier#13,Creighton#17,Seton Hall#49(and fading),Georgetown#62,Providence#68 and Marquette #84(losers of 4 out of 5). The latest Top 25s have Villanova #2 in both AP and Coaches,Creighton is #20 AP,#22 Coaches. The Blue Jays are 3-3 without Mo Watson. Butler is #24 AP #25 Coaches, Xavier is #27 AP,#26 Coaches.




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