Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
The second game of tonight’s Jimmy V Classic should be an exciting game to watch, with #6 Texas (6-1) travelling to Madison Square Garden to take on undefeated #15 Villanova (8-0). Even though the Wildcats enter this game undefeated, many would regard tonight’s showdown as their first true test of the season. Jay Wright’s team has also endured its fair share of injuries in the early going, along with Casiem Drummond’s announcement that he intends to transfer. But he was essentially a minor contributor whose departure simply means one less body inside. Experienced forwards Dante Cunningham, Shane Clark and Antonio Pena are talented enough to move on without so much as skipping a beat, with the senior Cunningham leading Villanova in both scoring and rebounding (17.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
But forwards haven’t been the calling card for Villanova during the Jay Wright era, and they definitely won’t be tonight either. It’s all about the backcourt, led by juniors Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding, and sophomores Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher. Reynolds is one of the more prolific guards in a conference loaded with quality backcourt players, and the two sophomores look as if they’re fully adjusted to college basketball after some growing pains early in their freshman campaign. And even though this isn’t the largest team that Texas will run into this season, don’t assume that the Longhorns will dominate the glass. Stokes and Redding are capable rebounders, and as a team the Wildcats enjoy a rebound margin of + 10.6 so far (3rd in the Big East).
Texas has some solid guards of their own, led by marksman A.J. Abrams. Named Big 12 Co-Player of the Week, the senior guard went for thirty-one in Texas’ four-point win over UCLA last Thursday. He’s joined by point guard Justin Mason, who has improved as a distributor and is also a defender who can disrupt the opponent’s offensive rhythm. The wild card in this one may be small forward Damion James. Many feel that he’s one of the best at his position in America, which is true when he commits to attacking the basket. A capable outside shooter as well, James can get in trouble when he becomes content to simply fire away from the perimeter. If he stays in attack mode for forty minutes this is an extremely tough team to beat.
And even though they’ve faced the likes of Notre Dame and Oregon, Rick Barnes’ team is still giving up just 56.7 points per game. That’s helped by a solid rotation of big men in Connor Atchley, Dexter Pittman and Gary Johnson. The Longhorns average just over forty-one rebounds per game and lead the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense (34.9%). In a game where the backcourts could cancel themselves out, look for the big men to be the deciding factor.
Winner: Texas Margin: 1-4 pts.
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About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
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