Scouting reports: Villanova-Xavier and St. Joe's-George Mason

Scouting reports: Villanova-Xavier and St. Joe's-George Mason

A pair of City 6 schools are in action Tuesday night. Let's get you set for the matchups.

No. 3 Villanova (15-1, 3-1 Big East) vs. No. 15 Xavier (13-2, 3-0 Big East)
7 p.m. at the Pavilion on FOX Sports 1

Last time out
Villanova rebounded from its first loss since March 12, 2016, by beating Marquette, 93-81, on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wildcats looked laser-focused after having their 20-game win streak halted by a 66-58 loss at then-No. 18 Butler on Wednesday. As a result, Villanova lost its No. 1 perch atop the country.

Xavier dispatched hapless St. John’s, 97-82, on Saturday for its sixth straight win following back-to-back defeats at the hands of undefeated Baylor and Colorado. The Musketeers also own wins over Providence and Georgetown, making them the only Big East team without a conference loss.

Scouting report
Villanova is a nightmare when connecting from long range like it did against Marquette. The Wildcats made 14 of 23 (60.9 percent) from beyond the arc as Kris Jenkins (6 for 9), Mikal Bridges (3 for 3) and Jalen Brunson (3 for 3) went a combined 12 for 15. Villanova shares it (14.6 assists) and takes care of it (10.7 turnovers) with a 1.36 assist-to-turnover ratio, second best in the Big East. Josh Hart is the leader with averages of 19.8 points and 6.8 rebounds, but many Wildcats can hurt you.

Xavier receives a massive boost in the return of guard Myles Davis, who sat out the first 15 games serving an indefinite suspension handed down by head coach Chris Mack. The senior from Plainfield, New Jersey averaged 10.8 points per game last season while making 64 three-pointers and leading the Musketeers with 4.1 assists per game. Xavier ranks first in the Big East with a plus-8.1 rebounding margin as its guards boast terrific size. Trevon Bluiett (6-foot-6), Edmond Sumner (6-foot-6) and J.P. Macura (6-foot-5) all average 14-plus points per game.

What it means
A win for Villanova would push the Wildcats into first place of the Big East and only help their résumé and RPI for NCAA Tournament seeding. 

A loss would be Villanova’s second in conference play after it lost only two league games all last season.

Series history
The Wildcats spanked the Musketeers at the Pavilion last season, 95-64. Xavier got its revenge in the second meeting when it knocked off top-ranked Villanova in Cincinnati, 90-83. The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 22-5.

What’s next?
Villanova takes on St. John’s Saturday for a noon tip-off at Madison Square Garden.

Things don’t get much easier for Xavier, which travels to No. 12 Butler on Saturday to take on the Bulldogs at 2 p.m.

St. Joe’s (8-6, 2-1 A-10) vs. George Mason (11-5, 1-2 A-10)
7 p.m. at Hagan Arena on TCN

Last time out
St. Joe’s made easy work of Fordham, 70-55, on Saturday in New York to alleviate the sting of its 30-point loss to Rhode Island four days prior.

George Mason fell at St. Bonaventure, 82-72, on Saturday, dropping to 1-2 in the Atlantic 10 after going 10-3 in the nonconference.

Scouting report
The Hawks continue their push forward without Shavar Newkirk, a junior guard who was averaging 20.3 points per game before tearing his ACL, ending his 2016-17 season 12 games into the schedule. St. Joe’s does have James Demery back. The 6-foot-6 forward scored a career-high 27 points in the win over Fordham, his third game back since being out after injuring his left foot in the season opener. Demery averages 16 points per game, while sophomore Lamarr Kimble (14.1) and freshman Charlie Brown (10.2) follow suit.

The Patriots, who have already equaled their win total from last season, are led by first-year head coach Dave Paulsen, who came to George Mason from Bucknell, where he was a three-time Patriot League Coach of the Year. Marquise Moore does it all for the Patriots as the 6-foot-2 senior guard remarkably averages a double-double in points (18.0) and rebounds (10.6). He also leads George Mason with 3.6 assists per game. The Patriots don’t shoot the ball particularly well as they’ve made just 88 threes, second to last in the Atlantic 10 ahead of only the Hawks at 82.

What it means
A win for St. Joe’s would give it a 3-1 mark in conference play, a real positive considering the Hawks went into their second A-10 game knowing they’d be without their leading scorer the rest of the season.

A loss would drop St. Joe’s to .500 in league competition ahead of a tough matchup against Richmond, currently 9-6 and 3-0 in the Atlantic 10.

Series history
George Mason has never beaten the Hawks, who lead the all-time series, 4-0.

What’s next?
St. Joe’s welcomes Richmond on Saturday for a 12:30 p.m. tip-off on NBCSN.

George Mason hosts Saint Louis on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., a game also on NBCSN.

Villanova focused on learning from win over Seton Hall, not No.1 ranking

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AP Images

Villanova focused on learning from win over Seton Hall, not No.1 ranking

A few hours before Villanova hosted Seton Hall on Monday night, head coach Jay Wright came home and talked to his wife, Patty.

“You know you’re No. 1?” she said.

Wright didn’t react much to the news, nor did the players on the team when they found out during the pregame meal a little bit later.

“It’s not really that big of a deal this time,” Wright said. “I think we were all much more concerned with Seton Hall.”

Being No. 1 may almost be old news at this point, but thoroughly dominating good teams at the Pavilion never gets stale for the Wildcats, who cruised to a 76-46 demolition of the Pirates on the same day they regained the top spot of the rankings after a week at No. 3 (see Instant Replay).

Senior Kris Jenkins sparked the win with 16 points, shooting 4 for 6 from the three-point line and 4 for 4 from the foul line — numbers he cared far more about than the No. 1 in front of Villanova.

“That’s just a number,” Jenkins said. “We focus on getting better each and every day. We can lose our next game and we won’t be No. 1.” 

Villanova reached the No. 1 spot in the AP poll for the first time in the program’s illustrious history last season, a couple of months before winning the national title on an iconic buzzer-beater from Jenkins.

The Wildcats then spent five weeks at No. 1 this season before a 66-58 loss to Butler on Jan. 4 moved them out of the top spot — only briefly, as it turned out.

“Every time you do something first is exciting,” Wright said. “And then you learn from it. I think we learned a great lesson last year and I think it helped us this year. And we learned a lesson again when we went to Butler. So you keep learning from it, that’s what we really take from it.”

As the Wildcats said last season, the most important thing is finishing the season No. 1. And they certainly showed once again that they have the chops to repeat as national champs — a prospect that Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard called “pretty exciting” even after his team had its brains beaten in.

“That’s a tough team to play,” Willard said. “They’re the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. If you’re not clicking on all cylinders when you come here, that can happen.”

Willard went on to say that “if Josh Hart’s not the National Player of the Year, then there’s something wrong.” But against the Pirates, Hart had a modest 11 points as Villanova showed off its impressive balance with all seven players in Wright’s rotation finishing with at least eight points.

Afterwards, Wright credited his three seniors — Jenkins, Hart and Darryl Reynolds (eight points, nine rebounds) — for helping the team bounce back from a sub-optimal performance in Saturday’s 70-57 win over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m just really fortunate to have three guys who are experienced and have been successful but are really humble,” Wright said. “We looked at the film, told them St. John’s played harder than us, and we took care of it. I think our seniors set the tone.”

Saturday’s win wasn’t the only game at the Garden on Villanova’s mind. The last time the Wildcats played Seton Hall, they suffered a stinging defeat to the Pirates in the title game of the Big East Tournament. 

Jenkins, though, insisted, that rare loss didn’t offer any extra motivation. Neither did the fact that Villanova set a record with its 47th straight victory at the Pavilion. Or that Monday’s win was the program’s 1,700th of all time.

“Numbers are something that is becoming a challenge for us,” Wright admitted. “It’s a great challenge to have. Right now, it doesn’t really do anything for us. But trust me, at the end of the year, we take great pride in that. All it can do is distract us right now. We know we have to answer the questions and you guys do a great job. I usually learn the numbers from you guys. It’s just not gonna do anything for us right now.”

Wright may not always like talking about his team’s absurdly impressive accomplishments. But he certainly loves games like this one as the Wildcats dominated all phases, from start to finish.

Deadly long-range shooting? Tenacious defense? Creating turnovers and scoring off them? Big-time hustle plays and rebounds? Electrifying dunks? Villanova did it all Monday in front of a raucous section of students back from winter break and one spectator named Ben Simmons, who took in the game from a courtside seat and applauded with everyone else.

What’s it like coaching a game like that? Is it ever hard when your No. 1 team is up by 30?

“It’s not difficult at all,” Wright said with a laugh. “It’s enjoyable. Things are going well, so you’re enjoying yourself.”

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 76, Seton Hall 46

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 76, Seton Hall 46

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Back at No. 1, Villanova looked every bit like the best team in the country.

The Wildcats — who earlier in the day regained their top spot in the rankings after a week at No. 3 — demolished Seton Hall, 76-46, in a Big East matchup Monday night at the Pavilion.

The win was the fourth straight for Villanova (18-1, 6-1), the 1,700th in program history, and the 47th straight at the Pavilion, setting an all-time record. The previous mark of 46 was established between January 2007 and 2011. 

Leading by 13 at halftime, Villanova put its foot on the gas to start the second half, jumping out to a 53-26 advantage on a Kris Jenkins three-pointer followed by a baseline slam from Donte DiVincenzo.

The hot-shooting Wildcats continued to pour it on from there, with Jenkins hitting a couple of more tough threes to put Villanova up by a whopping 65-31 margin with 10:33 left.

Seton Hall (12-6, 2-4) closed a three-game road trip with losses in all three games.

Big men on campus
Jenkins led the way with 16 points on 4-for-6 shooting from behind the arc. He joined Jalen Brunson (13 points), Josh Hart (11 points), Eric Paschall (10 points) and DiVincenzo (10 points) in double figures.

All seven of the players in head coach Jay Wright’s seven-man rotation finished with at least eight points as Darryl Reynolds had eight points and nine rebounds and Mikal Bridges had eight points and seven rebounds.

Desi Rodriguez was the only Seton Hall player to hit double figures with 15 points.

By the numbers
• Villanova shot 47.4 percent from the field and 46.2 percent (12 for 26) from three-point range, while Seton Hall shot 29.1 and 25 percent.

• The Wildcats had nine steals and scored 27 points off 16 Seton Hall turnovers. 

• Villanova only missed one of its 11 free throw attempts.

First half
Seton Hall led 5-4 before Villanova went on a 13-0 run to take control, capped by a fantastic one-handed putback slam from Reynolds. 

The Wildcats extended their lead to 25-7 as Seton Hall struggled to make anything. Consecutive threes from Rodriguez gave the Pirates a glimmer of life late in the first half, but the Wildcats still took a comfortable 36-23 lead into halftime.

Hall trouble
The Pirates have more victories over Villanova than any Big East team since the new version of the league was launched in 2013, beating the Wildcats three times. One of those wins was in last year’s Big East Tournament title game at Madison Square Garden, Villanova’s final loss in 2015-16 before its magical run to the national title.

Seton Hall has had far less success at the Pavilion, however, with their last win there coming all the way back in 1994. 

Simmons in the house
Sixers rookie Ben Simmons, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was on hand to see the No. 1 team in the country. He sat courtside and took photos with fans at halftime. 

Up next
Villanova returns to action Saturday afternoon vs. Providence at the Wells Fargo Center.

Seton Hall goes home to welcome St. John’s on Sunday.