GameNight: Louisville at Villanova

January 10th, 2009
Jan 10 2009 - 12:00pm

Preview & Prediction: By Douglas Phillabaum





#18 Villanova (13-2, 1-1) hosts #23 Louisville (10-3, 1-0) at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia in a revealing early season match up. Louisville is on the road after wins against home-state rival Kentucky and conference doormat South Florida. Louisville played poorly in its out-of-conference schedule, falling out of the top ten and looking less and less threatening to the Big East heavyweights. Villanova has played fairly well so far--a neutral site loss to Texas, a road loss at Marquette, and a road win at Seton Hall in overtime show that Villanova still has a lot to prove. With the non-conference schedule over, both teams will now have plenty of chances to prove themselves against Big East competition.

Samardo Samuels (freshman center) has not played well recently for Louisville, scoring in double figures only 2 times in the past 6 games. In a particularly bad game versus Kentucky, Samuels was schooled by Wildcats big man Patrick Patterson. Patterson lit up Louisville for 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while Samuels spent most of the game on the bench with foul trouble, finishing with 4 points in 11 minutes. Louisville has alternative scorers and defenders, but to beat Villanova they will need a good game from Samuels, who should be able to rule the paint against a speedy but undersized Villanova squad. Villanova's quick guards could get to the line a lot if they beat Louisville's perimeter defenders off the dribble. Terrence Williams (2.5 steals per game), Andre McGee, Earl Clark (1.7 blocks per game), Jerry Smith, and Preston Knowles will be called on throughout the game to stop Scottie Reynolds. On the offensive side of things, Earl Clark (6'9" junior forward) should also be able to get some work done in the paint against a rather small Villanova line up. The question is, will he have help from Samuels in dominating the paint?

For the Wildcats, Scottie Reynolds is coming off a signature performance at Seton Hall. Reynolds scored 40 points and was very effective at key moments in the game. Bolstering his reputation for clutch performances, Reynolds shot 15-16 from the free throw line, including crucial free throws down the stretch. Reynolds will need help from fellow guards Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes to break Louisville down and get easy baskets. Stokes (44% three-point shooter) and Fisher (3 assists per game, 1.5 steals) are capable of getting to the line, getting their own open shots, and wearing down Louisville's guards. If they penetrate, they could also create foul issues for Samardo Samuels and make things easier for Villanova big man Dante Cunningham. Cunningham, at 6'8", will have his work cut out for him today--he leads Villanova in scoring and rebounding at 17 and 8, but he hasn't faced a tandem like Clark and Samuels yet. He must prevent second-chance points and rebound the ball defensively to allow Villanova to get out and run in transition a little. If Cunningham manages a double-digit rebounding performance, Villanova's guards should be able to win the game with their shooting.

This game has all the makings of a thrilling and close game. Both coaches -- Pitino for Louisville and Wright for Villanova -- are excellent motivators and among the most interesting coaches to watch. The result of this game once again will show how things stack up in the Big East in 2009.

Prediction: Villanova  Margin: 1-3 points