Nova/WVU Vie For Seeding


by Mackenzie Kraemer Big East and NCAA Tournament seeding will be on the line when West Virginia (#10 AP, #8 ESPN/USA Today) comes to the Wachovia Center to battle #9 Villanova Saturday afternoon. Both teams have very good cases to be #1 overall seeds in the NCAA tournament if they win out. Villanova can also clinch a #2 seed in the Big East Tournament with a win over the Mountaineers who have an outside chance at a #2 seed. The two teams faced off in February with Villanova coming away with a rare win in Morgantown 82-75. Scottie Reynolds scored 19 points in the last 13 minutes of that game. At that time, Villanova’s psyche was a little fragile coming off a blowout loss at Georgetown. This time, with the Wildcats one week removed from their blowout loss at Syracuse, coach Jay Wright knows the importance of beating their Big East rivals for a second time. “If we’re able to beat West Virginia, then we’ve got a pretty darn good team at the end of the year,” said Wright. “If we’re not, that shows we’ve still go a lot of work to do, but that they’re probably a real good team.” One area where Villanova will surely be tested is in the rebounding category. Syracuse pounded Wright’s team on the offensive glass last Saturday night. West Virginia is the #1 team in the nation in offensive rebounding. A big factor in the first game was that the Wildcats out rebounded the Mountaineers by 10. The other stats to watch are the shooting percentages. In the first match up, Villanova shot 57% from the field, 46% from behind the arc, and 86% from the foul line. All that and they still only won by seven. West Virginia, by comparison, was 41% from the field, 26% from three, and 56% from the foul line. Da’Sean Butler, who lit up Villanova last season with a 40-point effort, was just 2-12 from the field in the first game. Butler and others will likely see several open looks from three in this game with the Wildcats collapsing inside defensively. Wright prefers to force teams to make outside shots, and whichever team does that better has a good chance of winning. Wright knows his shooters also have to be accurate. His team is 2nd in the nation in scoring at 83.3 points-per-game, and it has the potential to improve. Both Corey Stokes and Taylor King have struggled with their outside shooting of late. However the emergence of Mouphtaou Yarou as an inside presence offensively in the past two games is the biggest reason why. Yarou gives the Wildcats sorely needed balance as well as an inside presence at 6’10, 250 pounds. He’s coming off back-to-back double-digit scoring games and is finally showing why he was ranked a five-star prospect coming out of high school. He didn’t log a minute in the first match up with West Virginia. Both Villanova and West Virginia feel they can go deep in the NCAA Tournament and would love to give the committee more reason why the team should earn a #1 seed. West Virginia should benefit from a slightly more lethargic crowd as many students are gone for spring break. The game will also be held in the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia rather than the Pavilion on Villanova’s campus. While the Wildcats haven’t lost a game on campus since 2007, the team is just 5-6 at the Wachovia Center in the past three seasons, including a loss to Connecticut this season. Tip time is just after Noon Saturday. The game will be televised nationally on CBS.