Wednesday will be a busy night in the City 6, as four teams are in action.
Temple (13-6, 2-3 A-10) hosts Richmond, looking to rebound from a 12-point loss at Butler, and St. Joe's (11-7, 2-3 A-10) has a winnable game at Fordham.
But the two biggest games of the night feature Villanova and La Salle, which each play for the first time since winning back-to-back games over ranked opponents last week.
Villanova (13-7, 4-3 Big East) at Notre Dame (16-4, 4-3) -- 6 p.m.
After losing three straight from Jan. 12-19, Jay Wright’s Wildcats beat No. 5 Louisville last Tuesday and four days later pulled off another upset at the Wells Fargo Center, downing No. 3 Syracuse in overtime. It was the first time ever Villanova beat two teams ranked in the top-five of the AP poll in the same week.
Sophomore Darrun Hilliard had his best game as a Wildcat against Syracuse, posting a line of 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Against Louisville, Hilliard had 11 points and three steals. The pair of effective outings gained Hilliard Big East player of the week honors.
Over his last four games, Hilliard has averaged 16 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 steals, on 56 percent shooting from the field and 53 percent from three.
Wright earned career win No. 250 in the win over Syracuse.
Senior big man Mouphtaou Yarou, who had his second-best game of the season against the Orange with 14 points and 16 rebounds in 40 minutes, is five points away from 900 for his career and three rebounds away from 700.
The 6-foot-10 forward’s minutes are down by three per contest, but he’s been productive in Villanova’s seven conference games, averaging 8.9 points and 8.7 rebounds.
Scouting the Irish
Notre Dame went 12-1 before it entered Big East play, with the only loss coming in overtime against St. Joe’s on Nov. 16. The Irish at that time were ranked No. 20.
Notre Dame received 12 votes in Monday’s AP poll, gaining a de facto ranking of 31st in the country. The Irish, though, are just 2-3 in their last five games, with losses coming against Connecticut, St. John’s and Georgetown.
Senior forward Jack Cooley is their best player. He’s averaging 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds and is shooting 59.2 percent to lead the Big East.
The Irish rank third in America in assists per game (18.2) and have shot 50 percent from the field, seventh-best.
Notre Dame edged Villanova, 74-70, on Feb. 18, 2012. The Wildcats have lost four of six to the Irish, including a 21-point defeat the last time the teams met at Notre Dame.
La Salle (15-4, 4-2 A-10) vs. UMass (13-5, 3-2) – 7 p.m.
The Explorers are looking to avoid a letdown at home against Massachusetts after their first pair of consecutive wins over ranked teams since 1952. La Salle beat No. 9 Butler and No. 19 VCU last week, and is off to its best start since the 1990-91 season.
La Salle’s historic week earned it three votes in the AP poll and National Team of the Week honors by ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated.
Bound for madness?
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has La Salle projected as a 12-seed in the NCAA tournament. La Salle hasn’t made the Big Dance in 20 years.
UMass is nearly as hot as La Salle, having won three of four and 10 of 12. That said, none of the Minutemen’s wins have been overly impressive, and their three A-10 victories have come over Duquesne, Fordham and Richmond, hardly world-beaters.
La Salle and UMass are tied all-time, 14-14. But the Explorers are 7-1 in the last eight meetings and have won four straight at Tom Gola Arena.
In their last matchup, the Explorers beat the Minutemen, 72-71.
Best player in the city?
Explorers senior guard Ramon Galloway leads the Big 5 in scoring with 17.2 points per game, and ranks third in the Atlantic 10. He had 31 points at VCU, making half of his 18 field goals and eight threes, and nine of 10 free throws. He also has 12 steals in his last three games.
Galloway was honored by CollegeHoopsDaily.com as the A-10 midseason player of the year.