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. Four-star 2015 shooting guard commits to Illinois

    Sep 23, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT

    Jon Lopez/Nike Jon Lopez/Nike

    Illinois now has three commitments in the Class of 2015, and there’s still a five-star point guard on the board that they’re pursuing.

  2. Maryland transfer eligible this season at Georgia Tech

    Sep 23, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The 6-foot-8 forward has two years of eligibility remaining.

  3. Houston announces plans for new practice facility

    Sep 23, 2014, 2:05 PM EDT

    University of Houston University of Houston

    This facility is a nice boost for a basketball program that has made one NCAA tournament appearance since 1992.

  4. Malik Newman, Jaylen Brown among 53 invited to US Junior National Team minicamp

    Sep 23, 2014, 12:55 PM EDT

    FIBA U17 World Championships - Dubai Getty Images

    The two-day camp will be held October 4-5 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

  5. UConn star among 13 finalists for United States senior women’s national team

    Sep 23, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT

    Breanna Stewart Breanna Stewart

    Breanna Stewart is the lone current college player among the finalists, with the team playing one final exhibition before the world championships begin September 27.

  6. Ohio State center won’t request immediate eligibility waiver

    Sep 23, 2014, 10:10 AM EDT

    Marshall Plumlee, Trevor Thompson AP

    The former Virginia Tech big man will work hard in 2014-15 with an eye towards being a primary option in 2015-16.

  7. Purdue athletic department will sell copies of old game films

    Sep 22, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Matt Painter AP

    Purdue is offering to sell old game films using a company that hopes to do the same with over 600 colleges.

  8. Florida State gets commitment from 7-foot-4 2015 center

    Sep 22, 2014, 7:47 PM EDT

    Leonard Hamilton AP

    Florida State added a big man in 2015 to go along with its three talented perimeter threats.

  9. N.C. State has three new jersey designs for 2014-15 (PHOTO)

    Sep 22, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Mark Gottfried AP

    The Wolfpack have some new threads for the upcoming season.

  10. Creighton lands 2015 point guard commitment

    Sep 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    300x1 AP

    Creighton picked up a point guard in the 2015 class on Monday.

  11. Newspaper apologizes for its illustration of Kentucky head coach John Calipari

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT

    John Calipari John Calipari

    The image places alongside a column on the recent USA Basketball debate caused an uproar in the Bluegrass State.

  12. Vanderbilt releases non-conference schedule

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT

    SEC Basketball Tournament - First Round Getty Images

    Kevin Stallings’ young team will play away from Nashville three times before the start of SEC play, with two of those games being played on a neutral court.

  13. Three-star 2015 small forward cuts list to four schools

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Jason Minick/Reebok Jason Minick/Reebok

    The St. Anthony product is a valuable recruit for each of the remaining schools, as they all have the eventual loss of current seniors to account for.

  14. Dayton reels in three-star guard for fourth 2015 commitment

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:39 PM EDT

    Archie Miller AP

    Having landed commitments from three forwards, the Flyers added a piece for their backcourt on Monday.

  15. Four-star forward becomes Nebraska’s third 2015 commitment

    Sep 22, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT

    Tim Miles AP

    The Simeon HS forward officially visited Nebraska this weekend, and both of his parents attended the school as well.

  16. Western Kentucky asks fans for input on alternate jersey design

    Sep 22, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT

    Ray Harper Ray Harper

    Fans have three different designs from which to choose, with the winning option scheduled to be revealed next Monday.

  17. 6-foot-9 power forward verbally commits to Towson

    Sep 21, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    UMBC v Towson Getty Images

    The Tigers, who won 25 games last season, landed their first commitment in the Class of 2015 Sunday night.

  18. Georgia-based combo guard becomes Charlotte’s first 2015 commitment

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Alan Major Alan Major

    With both Pierria Henry and Terrence Williams being seniors, Charlotte needed to add a perimeter player in 2015.