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. Oregon State begins practice with just nine available players

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:57 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptk4mju5ownlmzu0ngrlyznkzjy2nwjhmdvhm2mwymey AP

    Oregon State has to replace its top five scorers from last season, so being shorthanded doesn’t help matters at all.

  2. Three Dayton players dealing with health issues as practices approach

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT

    Gary Bell, Dyshawn Pierre AP

    Chemistry was a key component in Dayton’s run to the Elite Eight. They’ll begin the 2014-15 season looking to rebuild that without three expected contributors.

  3. UConn’s tallest Husky wins annual preseason race

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT

    Amida Brimah AP

    Amida Brimah averaged 4.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game as a freshman, and he’s fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery.

  4. Big Ten sends recommendations to NCAA regarding student-athlete welfare

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:14 PM EDT

    Jim Delany AP

    The Big Ten is the first of the five conferences granted autonomy to send recommendations to the NCAA.

  5. Missouri’s most productive returnee dealing with minor knee issue

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT

    Johnathan Williams III, Tavario Miller AP

    With Missouri’s top three scorers from last season having moved on, Johnathan Williams III will be a key figure in 2014-15.

  6. Long Beach State loses starting guard to torn ACL

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    A.J. Spencer, Michael Williams, Josh Gentry AP

    Spencer averaged 9.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season.

  7. Two Iowa State guards suspended for the season’s first two games

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Both with charged with drunk driving offenses during the offseason.

  8. Frank Haith lands first commitment as head coach at Tulsa

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:39 PM EDT

    Frank Haith AP

    Haith earned a commitment from a three-star point guard from Western New York.

  9. Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet on giving back to community: ‘Kids only listen to what they see now’

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    Fred VanVleet, Ka'Darryl Bell AP

    Van Vleet has been attending speaking engagements this offseason, trying to give back to the youth.

  10. Oklahoma State lands commitment from elite point guard in 2015

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armor Kelly Kline/Under Armor

    Jawun Evans is one of the top three point guards in the class.

  11. NCAA twitter account effortlessly trolls MLB during playoff opener

    Oct 1, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

    Harvard v Arizona Getty Images

    Do you think the MLB needs some ice for that burn?

  12. Former Baylor commit suing former high school for alleged grade manipulation

    Sep 30, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Scott Drew AP

    A former Baylor commit is suing his former high school for allegedly altering his grades.

  13. Five-star 2015 guard to visit SEC school this weekend

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT

    FIBA U17 World Championships - Dubai Getty Images

    Can an SEC program reel in a top-5 player in the 2015 class during a weekend visit?

  14. IUPUI unveils new court design (PHOTO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    IUPUI athletics IUPUI athletics

    IUPUI unveiled a new court design this week.

  15. Western Kentucky fans pick new uniform design (PHOTO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    Western Kentucky mascot Big Red AP

    Western Kentucky fans were given three options and selected one for the upcoming season.

  16. John Calipari hiring an analytics director is smart, necessary, strictly for his players

    Sep 30, 2014, 3:55 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    NBA teams know all about efficiency stats and advanced analytics. College freshmen and sophomores may not.

  17. Mixtape for elite 2015 PG Jawun Evans (VIDEO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 1:56 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armor Kelly Kline/Under Armor

    Evans may be the best point guard in the Class of 2015, but it’s up for debate.