With its dominating personality reestablished after an impressive run of Big East Conference home games, No. 9 Villanova will hit the road to implement what it learned about itself.
The Wildcats (15-3, 5-1) will head to Providence for a Saturday afternoon clash against a Friars team that is in the midst of a demanding run of ranked opponents. Villanova will be the third of four consecutive ranked conference opponents for the Friars (11-9, 4-3), who stumbled in the last two challenges.
Villanova will bring with it a five-game winning streak, the last four of those at home. The most recent victory was an impressive 76-61 takedown of then-No. 13 Butler.
The Wildcats started slow against the Bulldogs, as is their tendency, but they took over in the second half thanks to their defense on a day when they shot just 37.7 percent from the floor.
The slow starts and the inconsistent offense simply give the second-place team in the conference something to work on for what is expected to be a showdown game with No. 10 Seton Hall in two weeks.
Villanova might have the higher ranking, but Seton Hall is in first place and unbeaten in the conference heading into the weekend.
Wildcats coach Jay Wright will work on unlocking the team's offensive potential moving forward.
"We have not been efficient offensively," Wright said. "We have done a good job of defending and rebounding. I think we can get a lot better with offensive efficiency. But our defensive rebounding, that can be consistent every night and it's getting better."
Jermaine Samuels led Villanova with a season-high 20 points against Butler. It made him the sixth Villanova player with at least 20 points in a game this season, along with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, Saddiq Bey and Cole Swider.
The Wildcats know they have capable scorers. At the very least, they are confident that if somebody can't get going, they have enough firepower to cover it.
"That is going to be the strength of our team is having multiple guys that can score and have balance," Wright said. "We've needed that. We haven't been great at that yet. We've had some balance but we haven't consistently had balance. That's how we have to play."
Villanova is tied for sixth in the conference in scoring with 74.9 points per game, while its 44.3 percent shooting percentage also is sixth. Providence is ninth in the 10-team conference with 71.4 points per game, while its 40.5 shooting percentage is last in the league.
The Friars were making it work when they won their first three Big East games, but have gone 1-3 since and enter Saturday's game coming off a 73-64 loss to Seton Hall.
After scoring 36 points against Creighton in a loss last weekend, David Duke scored nine on 3-of-10 shooting against the Pirates. Alpha Diallo is scoring 14.0 points per game and 13.7 since the start of conference play, but has scored in single digits in two of the Friars' last six games.
"We have to get more out of our guys, it's really that simple," Providence head coach Ed Cooley said, according to the Providence Journal. "This is a brutal league. Nobody's gonna feel sorry for you but we have to be better. Everybody who steps on the floor has to be better."
--Field Level Media