It will be a reunion of the old Big East when Villanova faces Syracuse at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. Nova is still in the Big East, but Syracuse left for the ACC seven years ago.
Villanova Wildcats vs. Syracuse Orange
Tuesday, December 7, 2021 – 09:00 PM EST at Madison Square Garden
The Wildcats have won three straight and are 6-2 on the year. Villanova’s only losses are to No. 4 UCLA and No. 1 Purdue.
Syracuse is 5-3 and has won two straight games. The Orange beat Indiana in double overtime in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and got a road win over Florida State in the ACC conference opener.
Villanova picked up three wins last week, all in Philadelphia Big Five games, beating La Salle, Penn and Saint Joseph’s. The Wildcats won the three games by an average of 23.3 points and held all three foes to 56 points or less. They’ve done that to four of the last five foes. The defense had been the weak spot for a team that is fourth in the nation in offensive efficiency, so the recent performance of the defense is a bad sign for future Villanova opponents.
Nova pulled off the Big Five trifecta while battling a non-COVID virus that was making its way through the team. Several players had to quarantine, and three Wildcats were questionable for Saturday’s game, although only sixth man Caleb Daniels missed the game. Daniels is averaging 9.4 ppg on the season.
Junior reserve Chris Arcidiacono filled in for Daniels and scored a season-high eight points with five rebounds.
Collin Gillespie is leading the team. He scored a total of 49 points in the last two games and was named to the Big East’s weekly honor roll for his performance.
Turning Things Around
The Orange are trying to turn around their season after a 3-3 start that included a 15-point home loss to Colgate where Syracuse gave up 100 points. The Cuse also lost by 12 to VCU as it dropped two of three in the Battle 4 Atlantis, also losing to Auburn by 21. Since then, the Orange have found their footing, with wins over the Hoosiers and Seminoles.
The defense has taken a step forward. Syracuse held FSU to .86 points per possession, the lowest PPP of the season for the Orange and the first time in four games it’s been below 1.00. Syracuse also held the Noles to 4-of-30 shooting from three, its best performance of the year. The Orange also recorded its second-highest turnover rate on defense in the previous game, against Indiana.
Villanova will be facing a familiar face, as Cole Swider, who played 77 games for the Wildcats over the last three years, has transferred to Syracuse, where he’s averaging 13.1 ppg and 6.9 rebounds.
Shooter Buddy Boeheim is back and averaging 19.1 ppg and four assists. He’s joined by his younger brother Jimmy, who is averaging 14.1 ppg and 6.1 rebounds.
Syracuse is No. 16 in the country in offensive efficiency and hits .368 from three. The Orange protect the ball on offense. Even with the latest improvement, however, the defense is still a concern. Syracuse ranks near the bottom of Division I in effective shooting defense and two-point percentage on defense.
Villanova vs. Syracuse Pick
Villanova appears to be putting things together on defense, which should help slow Syracuse’s multi-scorer attack, at least a little. The Syracuse defense seems less up to the task of stopping Villanova’s offensive production. Look for the Wildcats to pull away in the Garden for our NCAAB pick.
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