College Hoops Monday: Your Commentary

February 28th, 2011
Another Monday and another important matchup in the Big East, with Villanova (21-8, 9-7) visiting Notre Dame (23-5, 12-4) in a game the Wildcats desperately need to avoid playing on Tuesday in next week's Big East Tournament. Jay Wright's club is currently in a five-way tie for seventh place and only two teams will avoid playing on Tuesday. Notre Dame on the other hand has clinched at least a first round bye and one more win would mean a double-bye for Mike Brey's team. And at Purcell Pavilion the Irish are tough to beat, as they've gone 16-0 at home this season. To say the least Villanova will have their hands full on the road, but having lost four of their last six the Wildcats need to turn things around and soon.

And just like Saturday, with the Wildcats having to contend with St. John's guard Dwight Hardy, Villanova defensively will need to rise to the challenge presented by Notre Dame guard Ben Hansbrough. In their "burn" offense the senior is trusted to make sound decisions and he's done that throughout the season. Hansbrough leads the Irish in scoring and assists, shooting 47% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. Tim Abromaitis scored 28 in Notre Dame's win at Providence on Wednesday and has the versatile game that can be a handful when he's on, and Scott Martin, Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott are starters who understand and accept their respective roles.

As much as Villanova relies on their guards it comes as no surprise that their toughest stretch has coincided with inconsistent play in the backcourt. Maalik Wayns has moved into a 6th man role and despite raising his scoring average nearly seven points from last season his shooting percentages have dropped. Wayns has alternated solid scoring performances with quiet nights the last six games, and after scoring 19 on Saturday the hope has to be that the trend ends in South Bend. Corey Stokes missed time due to turf toe and even with his return the nagging, unpredictable nature of such an injury can make it tough to perform at the level he's accustomed to playing at, which in turn can add a little more to the plate of leading scorer Corey Fisher.

Villanova's frontcourt has the potential to make a difference tonight, with starters Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou both averaging more than seven rebounds per game. Isaiah Armwood has received some starts recently, and as a team the Wildcats are a plus-5.7 in rebounding margin. Notre Dame isn't too bad in that area themselves (plus-4.9) but this isn't a matchup where Villanova stands to be bludgeoned on the glass. The keys for Villanova will be solid decision-making and shot selection; the two teams are pretty close with regards to possessions per game but at times the Wildcats can exhibit a lack of poise and throw up forced shots.

Kansas State visits Texas in a game that suddenly means a lot more to Texas than originally anticipated due to their loss at Colorado on Saturday. The Longhorns now find themselves tied with Kansas atop the Big 12 standings, and one more defeat cancels out the edge gained in their win over the Jayhawks. Jacob Pullen and company are playing as if they have no interest in the NIT, and a win tonight would put them in good shape with regards to a first round bye in next week's Big 12 Tournament. There are also a lineup of games in the MEAC and SWAC, but most of the one-bid leagues are gearing up for conference tournaments that begin this week.

Top 25                                                                                                                                                          7:00 PM (19) Villanova at (7) Notre Dame (ESPN)
9:00 PM Kansas State at (8) Texas (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Morgan State at North Carolina A&T (ESPNU)
7:30 PM Florida Gulf Coast at USC Upstate
8:00 PM South Carolina State at Florida A&M
8:00 PM North Carolina Central at Bethune-Cookman
8:30 PM Coppin State at Norfolk State
9:00 PM Prairie View A&M at Alabama A&M
9:00 PM Texas Southern at Alabama State
9:00 PM Jackson State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Gonzaga
9:00 PM Grambling State at Mississippi Valley State
9:05 PM Northern Colorado at Idaho State
9:30 PM Chicago State at North Dakota