Villanova (13-18) vs. South Florida (19-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 7, 9:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,763) -- New York, New York. Television: ESPN. Home Record: VU 9-6, USF 14-2. Away Record: VU 2-9, USF 5-8. Neutral Record: VU 2-3, USF 0-2. Conference Record: VU 5-13, USF 12-6. Series Record: Villanova leads, 5-3.
GAME NOTES: The 14th-seeded Villanova Wildcats will have a chance to avenge their loss in last season's tourney as they square off with the No. 6 seed, South Florida Bulls, in the second round of the 2012 Big East Conference Tournament.
USF eliminated the Wildcats in the 2011 edition of the tournament by earning a 70-69 victory. The Bulls kept their momentum rolling against Nova into 2011-2012 and swept the season series with the Wildcats. Villanova was outscored by double-digit margins and held to an average of 54.0 ppg in its two games this season with USF.
Villanova (13-18) came into the postseason with nothing to lose and delivered its best performance of the season in round one, as it took down the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 70-49. The Wildcats have been plagued by injuries and inexperience all season long. Coach Jay Wright has led the Wildcats into seven straight NCAA Tournaments, but his squad will need to run the table to do so this season. The biggest flaw of Villanova has been its defensive effort. Although its opening round game was with the second to last most productive offense in the conference, the Wildcats still feat of holding the Scarlet Knights 16.5 points under their season average and to 12 percent shooting in the second half are extremely encouraging.
South Florida (19-12) has been one of the top defensive teams in the nation all season long, and leads the Big East with an allowed average of just 57.2 ppg. While the Bulls' defensive abilities are unquestionable, their lack of offensive production is concerning. Head coach Stan Heath was awarded the Big East Coach of the Year award after turning USF into the surprise team in the league. Despite Heath's recent award, the Bulls still have some work to do if they want to make their first return to the NCAA Tournament since 1992. After ending its season with a 50-44 loss to West Virginia, USF is in desperate need of a win tonight.
The Bulls handled Villanova on Feb. 15 in their most recent meeting which took place at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. This one will be much different however, as the Wildcats will have their star point guard Maalik Wayns in uniform this time. Wayns missed the second matchup with the Bulls due to a knee injury, which he finally seems to have recovered from. The junior guard averaged 22 points and 6.5 assists in his last two games of the regular season before pouring in 28 points on Tuesday. Mouphtaou Yarou added a double-double of 13 points and 12 boards from the front court, and suddenly Villanova has some life.
USF's freshman point guard Anthony Collins will have to do his best to match Wayns. Collins finished the regular season fifth in the league in assists with 5.3 per game and he also became one of the team's top scoring threats down the stretch. None of the Bulls are carrying in a double-digit scoring average, but Augustus Gilchrist and Jawanza Poland have stood out as the main weapons.
It is going to be very difficult for USF to beat Villanova for a third time. All of the pressure is on the Bulls in this one. The Wildcats have had the talent all season to be a competitive team in the league, but due to inexperience and injuries they fell short of expectations. South Florida will need to be ready to hold off Villanova's last effort to salvage its season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Villanova 65, South Florida 61
03/07 10:34:24 ET