After an up and down start to the season for Villanova, including a surprise loss on the road to Temple, a lackluster home win against a two-win team a year ago at Delaware State, and a narrow loss to Michigan State, it has more questions then answers on the way to the PK85 Invitational.
Villanova’s first opponent, Iowa State, on Thanksgiving Day at 3:30 p.m. (ET) in Portland, OR has a lot more questions than Villanova because it hasn’t played any team of comparable league.
Iowa State faced stiff competition from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, North Carolina A&T State University and Milwaukee – in its first three games.
The Cyclones won these games 88-39, 80-43 and 68-53.
Last year, the Cyclones finished 22-13 (7-11, Big 12) last season, going undefeated in non-conference play before losing in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament. They made a run in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16, where they fell to Miami.
The series was notable considering that Iowa State had two wins in the 2020–21 campaign and failed to win a single conference game.
Iowa State is leading two transfers this year through Saint Bonaventure. The top scorer was a Bonnie and that is senior guard Jars Holmes, who averages 18 points per game. The other transfer, senior center Osun Osunniyi, averages 13 points per game.
One returner who makes a difference is senior forward Aljaz Kunc, who puts up 13 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game. Another senior guard Gabe Kalscheur is the fourth player in double digits with 11.5 points per game.
Kalscheur is injured in his hip during training, so he only plays for a few minutes against Milwaukee.
The Iowa State defense could spell trouble for the Wildcats. The Cyclones are number one nationally in turnover percentage participating in the Milwaukee game, forcing 27 turnovers from Milwaukee, including the first five possessions.
Iowa State missed all 14 of its three-point attempts in the second half against Milwaukee.
The last meeting between Villanova and Iowa State took place on December 11, 1961, where Villanova was victorious, 74-53.
If both Villanova and North Carolina emerge victorious in their first game, which North Carolina will most likely be against Portland, the two would face each other for the first time since the 2016 National Championship, which Villanova won 77-74. to play. a Kris Jenkins three-point buzzer beater.
The Tar Heels are loaded and are ranked number 1 in the country for a reason. They are undefeated and last year placed second in the NCAA Tournament. This team won 17 of its last 21 games en route to the championship game and returns four of last year’s five starters.
The matchup to watch is North Carolina 6-11 senior center in Armando Bacot vs. Villanova redshirt junior forward Eric Dixon. Dixon will be in trouble against the bigger Bacot, who showed how special he is in the NCAA Tournament. He was third in the nation in rebounds last season with 13.1 per game.
In the NCAA Tournament, he averaged 15.3 points per game and 16.5 rebounds per game.
So far, Bacot has averaged 18.2 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game.
Another great player to watch is 6-4 junior guard Caleb Love. Love has the capacity for the big game. An example of that was against UCLA when he dropped 30 points, including six 3-pointers in the Sweet 16. He’s also inconsistent, like when he went 5-for-24 in the National Championship.
Other pieces to look out for are junior guard RJ Davis and graduate forward Leaky Black.
Love averaged 17.8 points per game and Davis averaged 15.8 points per game.
This article refers to the NCAA Tournament because the Tar Heels played a soft schedule.
North Carolina is undefeated but not tested against comparable opposition. It didn’t look as dominant against these foes, winning only by six points from Gardner-Webb and 10 points from UNC Wilmington.
A game against Villanova is sure to be a tough one after the first round game against Portland.
The Pilots could be another team the Wildcats would play against in the second round. Portland comes from the West Coast Conference, the same conference that Gonzaga runs, along with Saint Mary’s and San Francisco.
The Pilots are a dinosaur in college basketball as they bring back their top seven starters. In the era of the transfer portal, this is rare. The Pilots should not be overlooked as they had their most wins since the 2010-2011 season, going 19-15 a year ago with a record of 7-7 in the conference. Their biggest conference win came against San Francisco, which turned March Madness into a big team.
Portland was 1-6 against the top five in the West Coast Conference as it finished sixth in the conference. Portland is currently 4-2 on the season, after losing to Seattle, 80-68.
The star player to look out for with the Pilots is junior forward/guard Tyler Robertson. He averages 17.5 points per game and leads the team with 4.3 assists per game. Redshirt forward Moses Wood leads the team in rebounds with 7.6 per game.
After these two matches, Villanova will have the chance to play against a team from the other side of the line. Those teams include UConn, Oregon, Michigan State or Alabama.
UConn would be a test against a Big East opponent who will later face Villanova twice in a conference game. One player to watch out for is junior forward Adama Sanogo, who competes for the Big East Player of the Year award and averages 21.4 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game.
Michigan State could be another opponent. After Villanova’s 73-71 loss last week in East Lansing, the Wildcats could have a chance at revenge. Closing out the three-point shooters and having more than two players do the damage with Dixon and graduate forward Brandon Slater will be imperative for the ‘Cats to win this time.
Oregon is essentially playing a home game. This is the school where Nike founder Phil Knight graduated, the namesake of the tournament. The Ducks are consistently in the top 25 and this continued success includes a Final Four run in 2017. Oregon has a potential NBA Draft lottery pick in 7-0 freshman center Kel’el Ware. However, the team is led by senior center N’faly Davis, who averages 14.8 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game.
The last team is Alabama. Jahvon Quinerly, former highly regarded Villanova recruit, is in Alabama, but the Villanova faithful will not see him because he tore his cruciate ligament during the NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide have a top five recruiting class. Headliners from this class are Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley. Junior forward Brandon Miller averages 20.3 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game.
The PK85 Invitational will tell Villanova fans more about what to expect from the team as it is currently assembled and what expectations should be for the future.