Originally written on Sports-Glory  |  Last updated 12/28/13

Only a month ago, Saturday’s matchup between No. 2 Syracuse and No. 8 Villanova at the Carrier Dome was viewed by many as nothing more than an example of the hard-nosed basketball that was once played on a regular basis in the original Big East Conference. But while the undefeated Orangemen (11-0) are no strangers to a top-five national ranking, head coach Jay Wright and his surprising Villanova Wildcats (11-0) are the country’s biggest surprise after the first two weeks of the season, making Saturday’s contest the main event of a busy schedule. Projected to finish fourth in the new-look Big East, Villanova’s potent offense averages 82.5 points per game behind the scoring of junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston (16.5 PPG), and senior guard James Bell (15.4 PPG), and has earned impressive, top-25 wins over Kansas and Iowa while taking their place among the NCAA’s best. As ESPN’s Dana O Neil so helpfully pointed out, with the exception of their victories over Delaware (4 pts), Kansas (4 pts), and Iowa (5 pts), the Wildcats are winning by an average margin of 21.7 points per victory. But beyond Villanova’s ability to put points on the board, the Wildcats are also 13th in the nation averaging 42 rebounds per game, rank 24th in assists per game with just under 17 per contest, and despite their overall inexperience, have begun to develop a reputation as a strong defensive unit. With a 20-14 finish to last season, Villanova landed in seventh place in the final year of a conference that had nine 20-win teams, good enough to earn an at-large bid to the big dance where they eventually lost in the second round to North Carolina. Now in his 13th season as head coach, Wright has put together a team that has the Wildcat faithful dreaming of the days when former Villanova greats graced the Pavilion floor while competing on the national stage for conference titles, and Saturday’s matchup now looks as though it will offer a welcome glimpse into the past. Regardless of the poll, Syracuse is undeniably a top-five program right now, and boasts a roster that includes arguably the most underrated freshman in the country in Tyler Ennis, who’s currently averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.3 assists per game. In their inaugural season as members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Syracuse has been led by senior forward CJ Fair’s 17.8 PPG, and the Orangemen currently have four starters averaging double figures in scoring. Technically speaking however, Villanova’s previously mentioned victories over Kansas and Iowa took place at a neutral site, making their upcoming trip to Syracuse the Wildcats’ first actual road game of the season outside of the city of Philadelphia. After hosting Villanova, Syracuse will face Eastern Michigan on December 31st at the Carrier Dome, and will begin their ACC schedule on Saturday, January 4th with a home game against the University of Miami. Villanova plays the first game of their conference schedule next time out, when they’re scheduled to welcome the Butler Bulldogs to the Big East in a road game on New Year’s Eve. The post Villanova and Syracuse set for battle of the unbeaten appeared first on Sports Glory.

PLAYERS: Tyler EnnisC.J. Fair
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