Villanova Basketball: Wildcats' 5 Keys to Winning the Big East
As Big East play began on New Year's Eve, Villanova entered the 18-game slate as the odds-on favorite after their hot start in nonconference play.
The Wildcats began their conference campaign with a hard-fought 76-73 overtime victory over Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse, a victory that saw the team show some championship qualities.
With their first obstacle out of the way, the Wildcats will now face 17 more before they can capture the Big East regular-season title.
Here is a look at the five biggest keys for the Wildcats to win the conference this season.
The Pavilion Must Turn into a Fortress
As the only ranked team in the Big East at the moment, the Wildcats will have a massive target on their back, especially when they take on the underdogs of the conference.
The target will grow larger when they play at home, as every team in college basketball loves to pull off an upset on the road in conference play.
Unfortunately for the upset-minded teams marching into The Pavilion over the next few months, Villanova is a stellar home team.
And when it comes to big games at home, the Wildcats step their game up a few extra notches, as we saw in 2013 when Georgetown, Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette were defeated at the hands of the Wildcats.
Winning at home should not be a problem for Villanova, which is why it's pretty safe to predict a 9-0 home record in the Big East for Jay Wright's team.
Survive Both Three-Game Road Trips
The two bits of the schedule that pop out to the casual observer are the two three-game road trips the Wildcats will make in the heat of conference play.
The first, and more important, one comes in late January and early February as they travel to Marquette and Georgetown and then visit Temple in a Big Five clash.
Besides the trip to Creighton, the ventures to the Bradley Center and Verizon Center will be the most difficult road games in Big East play for the Wildcats.
The final game of that trip is a tricky one because the Wildcats will be forced to avoid a letdown against a Temple team has not had the best of luck this season.
Less than two weeks after the Wildcats finish that trip, they will encounter another three-game trip that sees them take on DePaul, Creighton and Providence.
That road trip will be less strenuous, but the Wildcats must not let their guard down against DePaul and Providence.
Find a Way to Get Ryan Arcidiacono Going
The one missing piece to the Villanova puzzle at the moment is the sharpshooting of sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono.
Arcidiacono is shooting just 36 percent from the field and an even worse 25 percent from three-point range.
Luckily for the Wildcats, they have not had to rely on the point guard in the scoring department yet, but there will come a game where he will be asked to step up and drain a few key shots.
If Arcidiacono breaks out of his shooting slump sooner rather than later, the Wildcats could get some serious press on the national stage as the conference season progresses.
Continue to Hand the Freshmen More Responsibility
Freshman duo Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins have been two of the most pleasant surprises in all of the Big East during the 2013-14 season.
Both have come off the bench to provide quality minutes and additional scoring threats to the Wildcats offense.
Hart averages 9.5 points per game, which is good enough for fourth on the team, and is shooting 57 percent from the field in his inaugural college campaign.
Jenkins has not put up the numbers Hart has, but that has not been his role on the team during the first 13 games.
Jenkins provides an extra body to spell the likes of James Bell and Darrun Hilliard during key points of the game, and if he can put in a major contribution in that spell of time, it is an extra bonus.
Keep Daniel Ochefu out of Foul Trouble
The final key to Villanova's success may seem like an obvious one given the lack of height on the team, but it needs to be mentioned.
Up until the loss to Syracuse, sophomore center Daniel Ochefu did not face a situation where he was in foul trouble during a big game.
That is exactly what happened against the Orange, as he picked up two early fouls, and the Wildcats were never able to establish a paint presence.
Against the best the Big East has to offer in the paint, Ochefu must learn from the Syracuse game and stay out of foul trouble to the best of his abilities.
If he cannot avoid foul trouble, the likes of Davante Gardner, Joshua Smith, Chris Otule, Ethan Wragge and Doug McDermott could have a field day against the small Villanova squad.
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