The No. 17-ranked Villanova Wildcats will receive a major boost with the expected debut of freshman guard Bryan Antoine when they battle Middle Tennessee State on Thursday morning in the opening round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational in Conway, S.C.
The Wildcats (2-1) had been ranked 10th but suffered a 25-point loss at then-No. 16 Ohio State before coming home to rout Ohio 78-54 on Saturday.
The talented but young Wildcats surely will benefit from having Antoine, who received medical clearance on his right shoulder. Antoine, a McDonald's All-American, had surgery on his shoulder on May 31.
"Our plan is to bring Bryan along slowly," said Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who earned his 450th career win with the program against Ohio. "He's only just returned to practice and the learning curve is steep for any freshman. Bryan's working hard to catch up and we're going to do all we can to help him in this transition."
Villanova was led by Saddiq Bey's 19 points and Justin Moore's 18 in the 24-point win over the Bobcats. More than that, Wright was impressed by the defensive effort from his young group.
The Wildcats have been starting two freshmen -- Moore and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl -- which is a rarity under Wright. The last time Wright started two freshmen was in the 2002-03 season.
"This was a much better defensive effort today than at Ohio State, obviously," Wright said after the Ohio game. "We learned a lot defensively from that game. We've got young players and sometimes they just have to feel it. We still have to get a lot better but that was a good step."
This will be just the second meeting between the programs as Villanova won 81-62 in December 2004, the fourth season of Wright's tenure on the Main Line.
Middle Tennessee State will be looking for its fourth win in five games to open this season under second-year head coach Nick McDevitt. The Blue Raiders defeated Maryville College (119-61), Lipscomb (73-70) and Mars Hill (96-82) before falling 93-72 to Coastal Carolina on Monday.
The Blue Raiders trailed by only six points at halftime before being blitzed by 15 in the second half against Coastal Carolina.
"We were too rushed in the second half," McDevitt said.
"Once they built a double-digit lead, we were trying to make it a tie game in a two-minute stretch instead of grinding it out. We didn't have enough discipline to get quality shots ... and it led to them getting down the floor quickly and getting easy baskets."
C.J. Jones paced the Blue Raiders with 21 points while Antonio Green added 18. The two guards entered the Coastal Carolina game averaging a combined 45 points.
Jones, who sat out last season after transferring from Arkansas, has been especially impressive through the first four games. Jones is shooting 54.5 percent from the field, including 13 of 25 from 3-point territory.
"(The redshirt) gave him a chance to learn our system, but not on the fly," McDevitt said. "He's really gotten a grasp of what we do on both sides of the ball ... and it allowed him to bring more of an impact to our team early on this season."
--Field Level Media