NCAA Basketball

College Basketball Preview: Louisville vs. Villanova

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Louisville Cardinals @ Villanova Wildcats
Wells-Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011
Time: 7:00 pm EST
Series History: Louisville leads 8-7

Louisville will be looking for a huge resume boost early on in the conference season when they visit the Wells Fargo Center to take on the seventh ranked Villanova Wildcats and Miller’s current crush, Jay Wright.

In Villanova’s win over Cincinnati on Sunday, the Wildcats used their quickness were so aggressive going to the rim they nearly shot more free throws than field goals, finishing 28-33 from the free throw line and 19-42 from the field. The Wildcats upped their winning streak at The Pavilion, its cozy 6,500-seat on-campus arena, to 45 strait. The streak began on Jan. 17, 2007 – and now includes 19 wins over BIG EAST teams.

The Wildcats lone loss this season was at a schizophrenic Tennessee team in the finals of the NIT Tip-off at Madison Square Garden, on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Wright has once again put together a guard heavy team, full of smaller, energetic guards. Villanova’s go-to-guy and leader in all aspects of the game amongst those guards is senior Corey Stokes. Along with Stokes the three names you’ll need to know, if you already don’t, are sophomores Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek, and Stokes’ senior classmate and namesake, Corey Fisher.

The Wildcats mainly run a seven-man crew at their opponents, but can go nine deep when the situation calls for it. Aside from the starters (Fisher, Stokes, Wayns and forwards Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou) Jay Wright typically uses only guard Dominic Cheek and big man Isaiah Armwood. Maurice Sutton and James Bell are the benefactors of the situational subtitution patterns.

Pena and Yarou could have a field day underneath with Buckles still out until the middle of February, but the recent solid play of Van Treese should be encouraging for Cardinal fans. Offensively though Louisville is going to have to hit open shots and get to the foul line often.

Last year’s game saw the Wildcats emerge victorious 92-84 in a contest dominated by free throw shooting at Freedom Hall. The two teams combined to shoot 94 free throws. If that happens again this year the Cardinals will be in trouble because this Nova team takes advantage of the freebies. Led by Stokes’ 93 percent shooting, the Wildcats are shooting an impressive 77.5 percent from the charity stripe. The good news for Louisville is ‘Nova’s aggressive style of defense aids in sending their opponents in BIG EAST play to the line for 83 free throw attempts, an average of 27.6 per game. With the shallower bench, if this game is a foulfest, depth could play a huge role in Louisville getting a win.

The Wildcats struggled mightily in their non-conference schedule in three-point shooting, but in its three BIG EAST games, ‘Nova is 23-of-42 (.548) in shooting from beyond the arc. It is now 95-of-271 (.351) from deep on the season after hovering below 30 percent in late December. Louisville’s perimeter defense is going to have to step up in this game and not allow the now warming Wildcat guards to get their strokes going. The Cardinals are also going to have move the ball, make an extra pass or two, and take open shots. After holding Cincinnati to 2-for-20 (.100) from deep on Sunday, Villanova has held its opponents to a 27.1 percent clip shooting it from long distance; that’s tops in the BIG EAST.

Possibly the one weakness this team has shown is turning the ball over. Against Cincinnati, Nova committed 19 turnovers which kept Cincinnati in the game til the end. This should be a frenetic chaotic paced game with plenty of turnovers from both sides. Whoever turns it over the least should have a key advantage towards earning a big BIG EAST victory.

Louisville is going to have to play a near flawless game to pull this one out without Buckles underneath. A valiant effort should fall just short against a seasoned and experienced Villanova squad.

Villanova 85, Louisville 78