Wildcats’ Big East Home Opener | Villanova vs. Xavier Preview
Written by David Szczepanski on January 3, 2024
Villanova looks to celebrate the start of 2024 with a win against Xavier in their Big East home opener. The Wildcats are undefeated in Big East play after victories against Creighton and DePaul. They are 9-4 overall so far in Kyle Neptune’s second year as head coach. Villanova has not played since their road win against the Blue Demons on December 23rd. The Wildcats have also not played on their campus at the Finneran Pavilion since November 29th.
After finishing second in the Big East last season with a 15-5 conference record, Xavier is just 7-6 overall to begin their 2023-24 campaign. The Musketeers have split their first two conference matchups. They defeated Seton Hall by 20 points at home, but they struggled against St. John’s on December 20th to open their conference season.
All-Time Series Info
The Wildcats lead the all-time series against Xavier, 33-7. However, the teams split their two matchups last season with each team winning at the opponent’s home arena. Villanova and Xavier played two close games last season, and regardless of Xavier’s current record, Sean Miller always gets his players to play hard, especially in Big East games.
Eric Dixon, Hakim Hart, and Villanova’s Excellent Defense
For Villanova, Eric Dixon was named Philadelphia Big Five Player of the Week. He was also selected to the Big East Honor Roll in the week prior to Christmas. He scored 32 points against Creighton to lead the Wildcats to a tough victory in Omaha. The Wildcats’ defense, which is often a 2-3 zone, has been excellent this season and has kept them in games, especially when they are struggling from behind the arc. However, Villanova’s offense carried them against DePaul by converting 54.5% of their three-point attempts, where they also scored 84 points.
Hakim Hart has contributed a lot offensively in his last four games. Hart is averaging almost 13 points in his last four games. He scored 20 points while shooting 4-4 from three against the Blue Demons. Hart’s success has come at the perfect time for Villanova as they have been without Justin Moore. It is unclear if Justin Moore will play in tonight’s game as he has missed the last three games with a right knee sprain. Jordan Longino has started in Moore’s place and Hart has also seen an increase in game minutes.
The Musketeers average 75 points per contest. They convert 44.6% of their shots from the field and 33.7% from behind the arc. Xavier struggles from the charity stripe with just a 70% success rate. They also turn the ball over almost 13 times per game. Quincy Olivari, a senior transfer from Rice, leads Xavier by averaging 18 points and 4.5 rebounds. He scored 29 points against Seton Hall.
Desmond Claude has found a lot of success in his sophomore season at Xavier. Claude averaged just 4.7 points in 21 minutes per game a season ago, but he now is a starter and averages 15 points and four assists per game. However, he did struggle against the Pirates with just 4 points in 37 minutes.
Xavier is a solid rebounding team with about 40 rebounds per game. Their leading rebounder is Abou Ousmane with 6.5 rebounds. Ousmane also averages 8.4 points per game.
Predictions + Game Info
Villanova is favored to win this game, and they should be. They have the talent advantage, and they are playing on their home court. However, the Wildcats should not take this Xavier team lightly. They have some young talent like Claude and some veterans that can perform well and win them games like they did against Seton Hall. But I believe Villanova will defeat Xavier with a strong second half to improve to 3-0 in conference competition.
Tonight’s game begins at 8:30pm. WXVU will have live coverage beginning with the pregame show at 8pm.