Skip to content

No. 2 Syracuse hosts No. 8 Villanova in a battle of undefeated teams

Dec 27, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT

wright AP

When Syracuse announced its decision to move to the ACC back in September 2012, there were a couple match-ups that the program hoped would carry over as non-conference games. The Orange set up home-and-home series with St. John’s and Villanova, and at some point (we hope) they’ll resume on-court hostilities with Georgetown. On Saturday afternoon the Wildcats will invade the Carrier Dome, with the game being a matchup of teams ranked in the Top 10 and neither having lost a game.

Jay Wright’s Wildcats being undefeated is the bigger surprise of the two, with their run including a win over Kansas in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis last month. Five players are averaging at least nine points per game, with junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston leading the way at 16.5 ppg. But if there’s one player whose improvement mirrors that of the Wildcats to date it would have to be senior James Bell (15.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg), who’s raised his scoring by nearly seven points from a season ago and is also the team’s leading rebounder.

Villanova’s skilled offensively and tenacious defensively, and they’ll use that ball pressure to pester Syracuse freshman point guard Tyler Ennis. Ennis has proven to be a cool customer at the point for the Orange, displaying the proper balance between looking for his shot and making sure talented scorers such as C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Trevor Cooney get their looks as well. On the season Ennis is averaging 5.4 assists and 1.9 turnovers per game, with his assist-to-turnover ratio ranking third in the ACC.

So what will the keys be on Saturday afternoon? The most obvious key is how Villanova deals with Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. The Orange don’t have the length at the two guard spots that they normally enjoy, but Ennis and Cooney have done a good job of making up for that with activity. They’ll challenge the looks that Villanova gets, and a key for Ryan Arcidiacono and his teammates will be to avoid getting suckered into those “fool’s gold” attempts. The longer than normal look that falls in the first half cannot seduce Villanova into ignoring areas such as the high post when it comes to attacking the zone, because if that is the case they’ll be in trouble.

But given the history of the two programs there will be familiarity on both sides. For Syracuse, their work on the glass could have a major impact on the outcome. To this point in the season the Orange have rebounded 40.5% of their missed shots, with Villanova limiting teams to an offensive rebounding percentage of 29.2%. If Pinkston, Kris Jenkins and Daniel Ochefu can keep Syracuse off the offensive glass (five players are averaging at least 1.6 offensive rebounds per game) they can win. That’s a tough task for Villanova but it’s clearly one they can accomplish.

Two former Big East rivals and the matchup of the brothers Ennis (Tyler’s older brother Dylan is a key reserve for Villanova) means that this game won’t lack for story lines. But the biggest story line is that both teams enter without a loss, and the winner will have another statement victory to add to its resume.

Latest Posts
  1. Guard Quinndary Weatherspoon becomes Mississippi State’s third 2015 commit

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:17 PM EDT

    Rick Ray AP

    The Bulldogs succeeded in keeping a talented in-state product home.

  2. Marquette guard Todd Mayo leaves program to pursue professional opportunities

    Jul 30, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT

    Todd Mayo AP

    Mayo’s decision means that Marquette has to replace its top four scorers from last season.

  3. 2015 shooting guard Terence Davis verbally commits to Ole Miss

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    Andy Kennedy AP

    Just over a month after landing a junior college guard, the Rebels have their second commit in the Class of 2015.

  4. UCLA AD Dan Guerrero expects Pauley Pavilion to be ready for regular season

    Jul 30, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    UCLA Introduces Steve Alford Getty Images

    UCLA is holding out hope that John Wooden Court can be salvaged, but if not they’ll have time to replace it.

  5. Mixtape for VCU-bound Terry Larrier (VIDEO)

    Jul 30, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Larrier is the best recruit that Shaka Smart has landed at VCU.

  6. Junior college prospect Andre Spight working to improve point guard skills

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT

    South Plains College South Plains College

    After averaging 16.0 points per game as a freshman, the South Plains College guard is looking to become a better lead guard guard as a sophomore.

  7. Report: Dayton lands a three-star recruit from DC

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT

    Nike Nike

    It’s Dayton’s third commitment from the Class of 2015

  8. Report: Top Oregon recruit denied admission to school

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT

    Dana Altman AP

    Oregon is now left with just nine scholarship players, only two of whom saw significant minutes last season.

  9. Report: Air Force transfer Tre Coggins finds a landing spot

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Coggins will be heading back closer to his Southern California home

  10. Duncan Robinson, of D-III Williams College, considering transfer to Michigan, Davidson

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Rising sophomore forward Duncan Robinson played his freshman year at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, but could be on the move for next season.

  11. A flooded Pauley Pavilion reopened in 2012 after $136 million in renovations

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:14 PM EDT

    Pauley Pavilion

    UCLA reopened Pauley Pavilion in 2012 after $136 million worth of renovations.

  12. Coach K: ‘I do not see an end of my road in my college coaching’

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Mike Krzyzewski AP

    Mike Krzyzewski is entering his 40th season as a head coach.

  13. Doug Wojcik’s attorney releases video of player assault allegations

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Doug Wojcik has been investigated twice by the College of Charleston.

  14. John Calipari’s return to Kentucky ‘solely’ due to loyalty to his players

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Cal told The Sporting News that he couldn’t leave behind the guys that decided to return to school. Do you buy it?

  15. Willie Cauley-Stein sheds light on injury he suffered in NCAA tournament

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    AP AP

    A former UK coach gave his listeners some new details about Willie Cauley-Stein’s injury.

  16. Another mixtape for Malik Monk, the most exciting player in HS (VIDEO)

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:27 PM EDT

    NikeEYB NikeEYB

    Malik Monk is a dream come true for the mixtape makers.

  17. Report: SMU sold nearly $350,000 worth of booze at basketball games

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    And now they’re considering selling it at football games.

  18. UCLA announces what appears to be a solid non-conference slate

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT

    alford Getty Images

    The Bruins will be tested by the time Pac-12 play rolls around.

  19. UAB’s leading scorer will not be returning to the program

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Chad Frazier was arrested back in April.