Dec 17, 2011, 11:58 AM EDT
Talk about your all-time meteor game. And, honestly, as a proud graduate of a competing Big 5 institution, that’s exactly how I’d describe it…if I didn’t have so much respect for the rivalry.
Prior to St. Joseph’s reemergence in the fall of 2011 as a legitimate power both in its city and (presumably) its conference, their annual matchup with Villanova felt as if it had lost something. Hell, last year we published a piece whose sole goal was to get people riled up for a game that, as I was taught to believe, needed no additional introduction. And though that piece’s sentiment was popular and I admittedly relished the opportunity to take some pot shots at the student bodies of both schools, something about an article meant to justify why the game “still mattered” felt flat out wrong.
Thankfully, this year, the tradition doesn’t require any sort of defense. Not only are the programs once more on equal footing, but there is even an added wrinkle to the evening’s allure. For the first time in the 68-game history of the Holy War, the Villanova Wildcats are scheduled to step foot on the campus of St. Joseph’s University. If that isn’t good enough to get you going, then I don’t what is.
[breaking down the Holy War after the jump]
How They Got Here
The Hawks are winners of four of their last five, dropping only a puzzling game on the road to American over that stretch. At 7-3 overall, their signature win is no doubt last week’s home win over #17/19 Creighton.
As for ‘Nova, after beginning their season 4-0, the Wildcats have lost four of their last six. Though they’ve beaten both La Salle and Penn already this season, coupling last week’s loss to Temple with another to Joe’s this evening will more than likely put them out of the running for their seventh (shared or unshared) Big 5 title in the last eight seasons.
Key Matchup: Carl Jones and Langston Galloway vs. The Villanova Perimeter Defense
As Villanova coach Jay Wright admitted after last Saturday’s loss to Temple, the Wildcats struggle mightily when it comes to guarding the perimeter. Though they won’t have to contend with another four guard set like they did last week (or would have in years past with the Hawks), they will have to figure out a way to stop junior Carl Jones and sophomore Langston Galloway.
Starting with Jones, the 5-11 guard is averaging 19.4 points per game, a 46.9% FG, and 40.6% 3FG. Though he’s a tough guard for literally anyone, at least Wright knows that he can trust Wayns with the assignment.
As for Galloway, here’s where things get trickier, as a team with an admittedly weak perimeter D is going to need to find some way to stop the player quickly emerging as the best jump shooter in the city.
The Hagan Arena at the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse
St. Joseph’s has made the decided effort to play more of its games on its own home floor this season, after being relegated off campus as a result of insufficient space and ongoing renovations over the last few years.
Though they’re sacrificing some money in the short term by not playing the team’s “big games” at the considerably larger Palestra, university officials, including coach Phil Martelli, are hoping the move back to the Fieldhouse will generate an increased buzz around the program.
We took a poll last week as to whether or not the SJU student section’s court storming of Creighton was really justified, and caught some blow back from those of you who believed we had an agenda in asking the question. Personally, I rather enjoyed seeing the Zack Ryder lookalikes get after it. No, no, in all seriousness, much as it pains me to say it, college basketball is better when your biggest rivals are at the top of their game. Hawks fans haven’t had a lot to celebrate in recent years, and the university’s goal was to once more generate an interest. So last week’s celebration was really the point from the get go.
As for Nova having to finally visit Hawk Hill, I know the common sentiment is that all of these games should be played at the Palestra; but if Villanova is going to drag St. Joe’s out to the Ski Lodge every year, I see no reason they shouldn’t have to play in an equally hostile environment.
As we mentioned up top, we finally have an even matchup on our hands, and with St. Joseph’s hosting this game on campus for the first time ever, you have to think they have the slight advantage. Oddsmakers seem to agree, with the Hawks favored by a 3-pointer. Regardless of whether you want to take or lay on this one, it’s just nice not see a line like last year’s -19.5.
Who We’re Rooting For
Still the meteor. Have fun tonight you crazy kids.
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