It is a Big East showdown on Sunday when the Villanova Wildcats (20-5, 11-1 in the Big East) travel to Madison Square Garden to take on the St. John’s Red Storm (18-7, 6-6 in the Big East). These two squared off at Villanova back on January 8th and saw Villanova win that one 76-71. In the game, Eric Paschall had 25 points and 8 rebounds while Phil Booth had 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. For the Red Storm, Shamorie Ponds led the way with 23 points and 6 assists.
This season, Villanova has played well and currently are in sole possession of first place in the Big East. The come into this one having won 12 of their last 13 games, with their lone loss being a 66-65 loss to No. 10 Marquette last Saturday. For the Red Storm, they have lost 6 of their last 10 and are looking for a signature win, and a hopeful turnaround to their recent woes, with a victory over Villanova. The two Big East teams will square off Sunday with tipoff scheduled for 5:00 pm ET.
In this contest, the Villanova Wildcats come in as 1.5-point favorites playing at home. The over/under for this game is set at 145.5 points.
By The Numbers
Offensively, St. John’s has been the better of the two teams. They currently rank 40th in the country in scoring, averaging 79.7 points per game. They are especially tough from behind the arc, where they are averaging 9 threes per game (good for 63rd in the country). Still, they are not as deadly from a distance as Villanova, who ranks 8th in the country, averaging 10.8 threes per game. Villanova, overall, is averaging 76.2 points per game.
On the defensive side, Villanova is statistically ranked higher as they come in at 54th in the country, allowing just 66.5 points to opposing offenses. St. John’s, on the other hand, struggles a little more defensively, as they are allowing 73.5 points per game (good for 235th in the country). One area that the Red Storm do excel, though, is at creating turnovers, as they are averaging 8.7 steals per game (16th in the country).
Villanova Looking To Create Separation In Big East
Villanova has a firm grip on the Big East conference, but they also know things can change in a blink of an eye. Looking to help their seeding come the NCAA tournament, Villanova is trying to accrue every win they can get, and a win over a conference opponent would be all the sweeter.
For Villanova, they have been led in scoring this season by guard Phil Booth and forward Eric Paschall. Booth is averaging 18.5 points per game on 44.8% shooting. He is also adding 3.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. For Paschall, he is averaging 17.6 points on 47.1% shooting, while also adding 6.1 rebounds and 2 assists per game.
Outside of these two, the other team leaders are guard Collin Gilespie (11.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals) and forward Saddiq Bey (8.2 points, 5.1 rebounds).
With just 5 players averaging over 20 minutes per game, the Wildcats usually rely on Booth and Paschall to provide their scoring, with any offense coming from other players being a bonus.
St. John’s Looking For Big Win Over Conference Foe
While they have struggled in the Big East, at 18-7, the St. John’s Red Storm have had a respectable season. Still, as March Madness looms, they are looking for a few signature wins to help solidify their spot in the tournament. A win over Villanova would definitely be one of those signature wins.
The Red Storm can put up points in bunches as they have 5 players averaging double-digit scoring, but the leader in scoring is guard Shamorie Ponds. This season, Ponds is averaging 20.5 points on 47.5% shooting. He is also averaging 4.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.8 steals per game.
Aside from Ponds, the other four double-digit scorers are Mustapha Heron (15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds), LJ Figueroa (14 points, 6.5 rebounds), Marvin Clark II (11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds) and Justin Simon (10 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists). To beat a tough Villanova team, the Red Storm will need contributions from all of these players, not just Ponds like in the first meeting between these two.
Villanova Just Too Much
While St. John’s was able to keep the first go-around between these two relatively close, I just don’t know if they have enough to pull out a win, despite playing at home. While St. John’s can score with the best of them, I like the combination of offense and defense that Villanova presents. Full disclosure, if either of these teams gets hot from the three, it could be lights out. Still, for my money, I will take Villanova despite laying the 1.5 points.