Maryland has had a few opportunities for marquee out-of-conference wins this season. The Terps lost to #5 Pitt and #16 Illinois at Madison Square Garden by nine and four points, respectively, and lost to #19 Temple by three at the Verizon Center. Saturday afternoon, Maryland has their last chance at such a win when they travel to Philadelphia to face the #7 Villanova Wildcats.
Villanova is a very, very good team who is coming off two straight wins over ranked opponents (Cincinnati and Louisville) and has two more ranked opponents coming up in a row after Saturday (Connecticut and Syracuse). Could this be a trap game for the Wildcats?
Kenpom has the Wildcats ranked 10th in the country, while Maryland is ranked 12th. Villanova ranks 14th in adjusted offense and 20th in adjusted defense, while Maryland is 74th in adjusted offense and first (!) in adjusted defense. Also, out of 345 Division I teams, the Terps rank 332nd in “Luck”.
Villanova lost All-American guard Scottie Reynolds this year, who was at the school for approximately seven years. No matter, they still have their usual insane amount of top-caliber guards, led by Corey Stokes, Corey Fisher, and Maalik Wayns.
Stokes, a 6’5″ senior, is averaging a team-high 17 points per game, and ranks 27th in the nation in offensive rating, 36th in effective field goal percentage (adds value to three pointers), and 16th in true shooting percentage (includes free throws). He is shooting 46.8% from three and a ridiculous 93.9% from the free throw line. Stokes has also scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games.
Fisher, a 6’1″ senior, is averaging 15.3 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game. He is struggling from three, shooting under 30%, but gets to the line a lot, and is shooting 77.5% from there.
Wayns, a 6’2″ sophomore, is averaging 13.3 points, 5.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. He leads the team in percentage of possessions used (assigns credit or blame to a player when his actions end a possession, either by making a shot, missing a shot that isn’t rebounded by the offense, or committing a turnover) with 28.5% and ranks 13th in the nation in assist rate (assists divided by the field goals made by the player’s teammates while he is on the court).
Villanova’s two starters at forward are Antonio Pena, a 6’8″ senior from Brooklyn, and Mouphtaou Yarou, a 6’10″ sophomore from Benin by way of Montrose Christian School in Rockville.
Pena is averaging 9.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and is shooting 56.5% from the floor. He ranks second on the team to Stokes in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage.
Yarou should be a familiar name to Maryland fans, who was a top in-state prospect that once again eschewed the Terps for brighter, out-of-state prospects. After getting sick last season and missing much of the year, Yarou is averaging 9.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game this year, and has three double doubles. While on the floor, he gets 13.5% of possible offensive rebounds, good for seventh in the conference.
Off the bench, Villanova has Dominic Cheek, Maurice Sutton, Isaiah Armwood, and James Bell. Cheek is averaging 7.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, Sutton (6’11″ and from Largo, Md) is averaging 3.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game, Armwood (from Baltimore) is averaging 2.1 points and 3 rebounds per game, and Bell is averaging 1.7 points and 1.1 rebounds per game.
KenPom predicts a Villanova win by a final score of 73-68, and gives the Wildcats a 69% chance to win it. He gives the game a 77.5 Thrill Score, just .2 points behind the top game of the day, Vanderbilt-Tennessee.
Ultimately, I think Maryland just needs this game and Villanova doesn’t. The Wildcats are a lock for the tournament, while the Terps really need to win this game to avoid being just another bubble team. Prediction – Maryland 88, Villanova 82.