The Big East season starts now, and it starts with a doozy. Rutgers has to travel to the Pavillion to take on number 8 Villanova at 1 pm on Sunday.
In last year's NCAA tournament, Coach Mike Rice took his Robert Morris squad to overtime against the Wildcats, and was unable to come out with a win. This game is going to mean something to him.
But it is hard to win on the road in the Big East, especially when the team you're facing is ranked in the top ten.
More after the jump...The 11-1 Wildcats are lead by Corey Stokes and Corey Fischer. Malik Wayans also chips in double digits. The 'Nova guards are big and fast and will be another difficult match-up for Mike Coburn and James Beatty. Dane Miller will also have to defend guards, as Nova often plays three or four guards.
Villanova's strength is it's 3-point shooting. Rutgers latest defensive weakness has been closing out on shooters. In fact, against UNC, RU was unable to defend the 3 early, and a team that isn't known for it's hot shooting got hot and hit a high percentage. If Rutgers wants to compete in this game, they're going to have to force Villanova into the lane, and make them use their big men.
Rutgers forwards match up pretty well against the mobile big men of Villanova. If the RU guards can force the ball to be fed inside, they may be able to hang tough. Villanova also bring Dominic Cheek--a NJ guy--off the bench, and he'll be a tough match-up for Miller and Mike Poole.
This is a different type of match-up than UNC was, but Rutgers will still have to attempt to control the pace. The Scarlet Knights are going to have to be smart on offense and not try to get into a shootout. If Villanova gets the ball out on the break, they're going to look for the open 3, not the lay-up.
If Rutgers forces turnovers (and it doesn't appear the Nova guards turn it over a lot), they'll have to avoid the fast break and work the shot clock. They'll have to look for smart shots and try to pound the ball inside. If there's anything Rutgers has going for it, it's that Villanova isn't incredibly deep, and they may be able to force the Nova big men into foul trouble.
All in all, it's a Big East road game. Even when you have talent and depth, those games are never easy and this one doesn't appear that it will be. Hopefully, RU will be over the butterflies they had against UNC and will play the smart game Mike Rice is looking for.
Because Rice is looking for revenge after last year's loss.
The game will be aired on ESPNU.