A week ago, the Villanova Wildcats were dealt their first loss of the season after being upset in the finals of the preseason NIT by the Tennessee Volunteers. The loss, their first of the season, dropped Nova out of the top 10. Now, with a week of rest the Wildcats face their first Big 5 opponent of the season against the St. Josephs Hawks.
The game pits the Catholic school Villanova vs the Jesuit St. Joes, which is where the "Holy War" nickname for this game comes from. This will be the 68th time these schools have met with Nova winning 48 of those contest including five of the last six meetings.
St. Joe's played their first Big 5 opponent of the season just two days ago when they lost to Drexel 62-50. That loss halted a three game win streak by the Hawks. The Joes will be Villanova's first of three straight city series games, with Penn and LaSalle being the next two. The Hawks are young and Villanova coach Jay Wright knows that youth makes them unpredictable.
"What is scary is that they have a lot of talented young guys that can have games like Rutgers when they are really good. We've gone through this. And, they can have games when they can be real inconsistent because they're young. We just don't want to catch them on a night when they're really good. St. Joe's-Villanova is usually one of those nights."
That said, Villanova is pretty young as well and St. Joes head coach Phil Martelli has taken note of the faces on the Main Line.
"The change really is this guy inside [Mouphtaou Yarou] is a body, clearly different," Martelli said. "But the engine is run by Maalik Wayns and Corey Fisher. It does cause you to pause after so long and now saying 'Where's Scottie Reynolds in this?' Because he was around forever and such a wonderful player."
The Nova Blog says we'll learn a lot about this Villanova team seeing them play this game after the disappointment in New York last week.
Over the course of Jay Wright's tenure, you can usually tell a lot about a Villanova squad in how they perform after a loss. Losing last week at Madison Square Garden was a surprise to some, but the game tomorrow night is what will stand out to me. Can this Cats team put a bad performance in the rearview mirror and focus on the task at hand? I can't guarantee anything, but I think the veterans and the coaching staff will have this team chomping at the bit tomorrow night against a hated rival.