Villanova beat St. John’s twice, with freshman Donte DiVincenzo playing a huge role in the first loss and with possible National Player of the Year and Big East Player of the Year Josh Hart dropping 26 in the second game.
The Wildcats know they will be a top-2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but no one wants to drop a game to a team with a losing record.
Meanwhile, St. John’s gets to defend its home court and end this season with a little bit more of a bang if they could knock away the Wildcats today.
A tall order?
Of course it is.
The only real change in Villanova is the addition of Eric Paschall to the starting lineup. He’s a big physical wing who started in place of the injured Daryll Reynolds. Reynolds is back, but came off the bench in the Wildcats’ season finale over Georgetown. Center Dylan Painter has also seen more spot minutes in the past five games for Jay Wright’s club.
Who: #8 St. John’s Red Storm (14-18, 7-11 Big East) vs #1 Villanova Wildcats (28-3, 15-3 Big East)
What: Big East Tournament Quarterfinals Round
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: Thursday, March 9th, 12:00 PM ET
TV: Fox Sports 1 | Fox Sports Go
Audio: St. John’s TV All-Access will provide free audio for the contest. You can also use Tune In radio, reachable here. Also live game audio can be found on 970 AM WNYM.
Keys to the game
Lock in and defend. Mistakes will be deadly to a winning effort. Can these Johnnies generate deflections and make the Wildcats have to create shots on their own? They can do that - but it won't be the snowball effect of a Nova team that has its flow going. Malik Ellison has to stay on the floor and bother Josh Hart, and Tariq Owens needs to make shots difficult at the rim.
Dynamic duo. Marcus LoVett needs to have a more active game, slashing through the defenses and creating opportunities for Shamorie Ponds and others.
Ignite the crowd. It’s a near-home game, though Villanova will be well-represented today. Can the Johnnies show the fighting spirit of last night, bringing the crowd in on their side - and setting a tone for future games?
KenPom Prediction: Villanova 84-68 (93% chance of victory)
Rumble Prediction: This is too much of a hill to climb. 81-71, Villanova.