Setting : West Virginia and Villanova close their Big East regular seasons at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia Center when Bob Huggins brings in his No. 10 Mountaineers (23-6/ 12-5) for a clash with Jay Wright’s No. 8 Wildcats (24-5/ 13-4).
Plot : Both of these teams have clinched byes into the Big East quarter-finals.
Sub-plot : Neither of these are limping into the conference tournament, but they are not in full stride either. Of late, Villanova is four and four. West Virginia is four and three. Can these teams afford to rest? Or do they need to rediscover their momentum?
Flashback : A little more than a month ago, Scottie Reynolds hit a game-high 21, and Corey Fisher added 17 as the Wildcats stole one in Morgantown, 82-75.
Villanova leads the series 21-18. West Virginia has won four of the last six meetings in the series.
Villanova has earned 30 invitations to The Dance, including last year’s Final Four appearance and a National Championship in 1985. On twenty-two occasions, the Mountaineers punched tickets to The Dance. West Virginia played for the national title in 1959.
Foreshadowing : Thirteen Mountaineers have played in the NBA. Joe Alexander is the only current alum of West Virginia basketball in the Association. Thirty-eight Wildcats have moved on to the Association. Malik Allen, Dante Cunningham, Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, and Tim Thomas spent their college days playing for Villanova.
Conflict : West Virginia is 19-0 when holding opponents to 69 or fewer points. Villanova averages 83. Both teams have rebound margin of 5.3, but in recent losses Villanova has been exposed on the glass.
How big of a role will be played by Villanova’s 6′10″ Mouphtaou Yarou? The freshman averages almost 13 minutes off the bench. He scores three points and grabs three boards but gets called for 2.3 fouls per game.
Villanova’s offense starts with Scottie Reynolds. The senior guard is at his best when he can exploit open lanes to the basket. He is adept at drawing contact and finishing. Reynolds scores almost 19 a game with 3.4 assists and 2.6 turnovers.
Reynolds hits 41.6 percent from behind the three-point arc. He will need success from long range to spread out the West Virginia defense.
Corey Fisher adds almost 14 a game along with an assist to turnover ratio of 2:1. Most of Fisher’s assists come from drive and dish situations.
At 6′8″, Antonio Pena represents Villanova’s tallest starter. He scores 11 and grabs 7.4 boards. The junior’s biggest challenge Saturday will be staying out of foul trouble while limiting the WVU front court.
Reggie Redding chips in nearly eight points and five rebounds. Corey Stokes chips in nine and four.
Da’Sean Butler and Darryl Bryant lead the Mountaineers with 52 and 39 three pointers. Butler hits 34.9 percent of his shots from long range while Bryant knocks down 34.2 percent. Butler leads four Mountaineers in double figures with 17.1 per game.
Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks score 13.7 and 12.4 respectively. Bryant adds 10. Ebanks leads the way with 8.4 rebounds.
Resolution : If nothing else, this should be a close game. That favors the home team, Villanova. The Wildcats hit over 75 percent from the line. West Virginia scores 69 percent from the charity stripe.