Villanova heads out west to Cincinnati, Ohio looking for their second consecutive victory | Villanova vs. Xavier Preview
Written by David Szczepanski on February 7, 2024
Villanova heads out west to Cincinnati, Ohio for a midweek matchup against Xavier. The Wildcats look to build off their 18-point victory against Providence by sweeping the Musketeers. With just nine games remaining in the regular season schedule, every game counts even more as Villanova tries to grab a spot in March Madness for the first time under Coach Neptune.
The Wildcats snapped their five-game losing streak against the Friars. Prior to Sunday’s game, confidence was extremely low, and Villanova had not won a game in almost a month. There still is a lot of doubt and uncertainty around this Villanova team, but a large winning streak could completely change the season. The Cats’ defeated Xavier, 66-65, at the Finneran Pavilion on January 3rd. Villanova had a comfortable lead for most of that game until the end of the second half where the Musketeers were just a last second shot away from winning the game.
All-Time Series Info
Villanova leads Xavier in the all-time series, 34-7. Coach Neptune is 2-1 against the Musketeers as Villanova’s head coach.
Xavier enters tonight’s game with the same overall record as Villanova, 12-10. However, the Musketeers have been more successful in conference play with a 6-5 record in their first 11 games. The injury to Zach Freemantle in the beginning of the season has led to a less successful season than last year, but Xavier has played well and tough in almost every game. They have been my surprise team in the Big East.
The Musketeers are 9-4 at the Cintas Center. They have won their last two games against St. John’s and DePaul. Xavier’s biggest wins have come against Providence, Seton Hall, and St. John’s. They are just 2-7 in Quad 1 games, but they are 4-1 in Quad 2 games. As previously mentioned, Xavier plays hard and battles every single game. Therefore, this game on the road in Ohio, despite already defeating Xavier, will not be easy for Villanova.
Even without Freemantle, Xavier’s offense is still averaging 77 points per game. The Musketeers shoot 35% from three. They are average from the free throw line with a 74% success rate. They are a strong rebounding team and average about seven steals per game. Villanova has the turnover advantage as Xavier averages almost 12 turnovers per game. The Wildcats’ defense did a tremendous job at forcing turnovers against Providence.
Xavier’s Players to Watch
G Quincy Olivari (Senior, Atlanta, GA): 19.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 45.4 3P%, scored 43 points against DePaul on February 3rd
G Desmond Claude (Sophomore, New Haven, CT): 16.2 ppg, scored 25 points against St. John’s on 1/31
G Dayvion McKnight (Senior, Shelbyville, KY): 11.7 ppg, 4.9 apg, 47% FG%
F Gytis Nemeiksa (Senior, Lithuania): 6.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 38.9% 3P%
Xavier’s main strength is their offense and balanced contributions from their entire roster. They have a lot of bench depth and Villanova will have to play matchups. In this second matchup of the season, the Wildcats must limit offensive turnovers and play better in the paint against Xavier. Villanova had 12 turnovers in the first matchup compared to Xavier’s eight turnovers, and the Musketeers outscored the Wildcats in the paint by 14 points.
Eric Dixon, who is Villanova’s average leading scorer with almost 16 points per game, scored 13 points against Xavier on January 3rd. Brendan Hausen and Hakim Hart combined for 26 points and five threes. The starting lineup for Villanova, which was without Justin Moore, struggled in the first contest.
The Wildcats must continue their defensive success from Sunday in this game. Xavier will play good defense at times, but it is not their main strength. The Musketeers like to score and go on large runs, specifically with their strong three-point shooting. Villanova has struggled to stop large runs from their opponents all season, and hopefully, they have found some confidence and consistency. Villanova faces another “must-win” situation tonight, and I think Eric Dixon and Villanova’s bench must play a large role. Villanova’s bench outscored Providence’s bench, 28-0.
Tonight’s game between Villanova and Xavier begins at 7pm and can be watched on FS1.