Hopefully not V for victory for Villanova.
Another big tilt is upon us between the Syracuse Orange and the Villanova Wildcats. This has become one of the premier matches on the Big East slate each season and this one will be no different. With two top ten teams set to go in a packed Dome this game will be both intense and entertaining. Therefore we embarked on another question and answer with one of the nicer and knowledgeable Villanova bloggers out there. Chris Lane runs The Nova Blog and we’ve had several Q&A’s over the last few seasons so obviously we asked him some more questions this time.
1. Orange::44: Describe the year Villanova has had so far.
Chris: It's been a mixed bag so far for 'Nova this year. To be fair, the schedule has been pretty light this far. I think the team is showing a ton of maturity this year in their ability to battle back from difficult situations (come-from-behind wins against Temple and Maryland) and a valiant effort against Kemba 'MJ' Walker.
The seniors have predictably stepped up to carry this team, but we're facing a numbers crisis right now having already lost JayVaughn Pinkston for the year, and now having Dominic Cheek down with a knee injury. The next few games will let us know how for real this team is.
I think the Syracuse game will provide a huge barometer for 'Nova. None of us expect to win, so if we do, it will be an amazing accomplishment for this team. A blowout loss, and we've got problems.
2. Orange::44: What was the difference in the Connecticut game that allowed them to win (Besides Kemba Walker). What could Villanova have done better?
Chris: Rebounding was a big issue. They matched our size very well but you can tell why they are historically so good on the glass. They've been taught well and it showed. If Yarou and Pena can't contain Jackson on Saturday, we're in trouble. Missing Cheek is also a big issue because he is such a good rebounder.
The other issue was shooting. We had PLENTY of wide open shots that we just couldn't make, which is really odd for us. We don't have great outside shooters this year other than Stokes and Cheek, but we're still pretty good. Against the 'Cuse zone, we'll need to take our opportunities and make them count.
3. Orange::44: Who is the star of this Villanova team at this point?
Chris: A week ago I would have told you Corey Stokes, but now this is once again Corey Fisher's team. When we were up against it with Maryland and UConn, he completely took the game over. If we're down by 2 and have 1 shot left, I want Corey Fisher taking it.
4. Orange::44: Where will Syracuse find the most success in attacking Villanova?
Chris: It's tough to say. I think Fisher, Wayns and Stokes (in addition to James Bell and Cheek if he can play) should be able to D up the Syracuse guards pretty well, so 'Cuse's best bet is probably down low and in the mid-range game. We've been vulnerable to giving up offensive rebounds, so if your wings and bigs can exploit that you should be able to get easy buckets and put our depth-starved team into foul trouble.
5. Orange::44: What players will have a surprisingly good game this Saturday on both sides?
Chris: Antonio Pena for Villanova. Remember Dante Cunningham dropping 30+ on you mostly drilling elbow jumpers? Pena has discovered that shot. I'm sure Boeheim is well aware.
For Syracuse, C.J. Fair. I was very impressed with him against Pitt and his game fits the mold of somebody who is going to kill us on the glass. Having Cheek would really help with him, so hopefully he's able to go.
6. Orange::44: This is obviously one of the better rivalries in the Big East. While Syracuse will continue to look at Georgetown and Connecticut as their biggest, it is certainly up there for Syracuse fans. How does the Villanova fan base look at it?
Chris: Personally, from uber-hate to hate, I'd go Georgetown, Syracuse, UConn, Pitt. Pitt is a rivalry I wish both sides took more seriously, because we always have great games. I think a lot of 'Nova people hate UConn because of Calhoun (and I have no idea why, I respect him a lot, similar to how I respect Boeheim).
The numbers speak for themselves though - Villanova-Syracuse is a huge draw in this day and age.
7. Orange::44: Prediction time. What's going to happen this weekend?
Chris: I wish I could predict a 'Nova win, but without Dominic Cheek and Kris Joseph looking to return for yall, I can't do it. I think your zone will frustrate us into taking contested outside shots and you do just enough damage in fouls to us that you pull out an 8-10 point win at The Dome.
My answers for Chris' questions are posted here. Be sure to check them out. Chris is good people and be sure to check out The Nova Blog for all the latest Villanova news, not only for basketball but also lacrosse season. He’s on Twitter @chrisjjlane and you can find the blog @SBNTheNovaBlog. Good luck to them the rest of the season and we regret any ill will Syracuse may cause Chris Saturday afternoon in advance.