(8) Villanova (11-0) at (2) Syracuse (11-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 28, 2 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carrier Dome (7,471) -- Syracuse, New York. Television: CBS. Home Record: Villanova 7-0, Syracuse 7-0. Away Record: Villanova 1-0, Syracuse 1-0. Neutral Record: Villanova 3-0, Syracuse 3-0. Conference Record: Villanova 0-0, Syracuse 0-0. Series Record: Syracuse leads, 38-32.
GAME NOTES: Former Big East rivals will meet in a top-10 matchup on Saturday as the No. 8 Villanova Wildcats visit the No. 2 Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome.
Before Syracuse moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference and Villanova helped form the new look Big East, these two teams consistently battled as members of the former Big East Conference. Syracuse holds a 38-32 advantage in the all- time series, although the teams split the season series a year ago.
A look at the top 10 teams in the country provides very few surprises but Villanova is certainly one of them. The Wildcats have sprinted out to a perfect 11-0 record, with marquee wins over Kansas and Iowa along the way. This is just the second true road game for Villanova.
Other than No. 1 Arizona, no team in the country has been as consistently dominant as the Orange, who enter play with the same 11-0 mark and the No. 2 ranking in the most recent poll. Syracuse, always a team that plays well at home, has won all seven of its bouts at the Carrier Dome.
In their most recent triumph, the Wildcats ran over Rider, 88-67, at home. They knocked down an even 50 percent of their shots from the floor, including a 10-of-26 showing from beyond the arc, while also holding a 34-28 scoring advantage in the paint. Josh Hart scored 19 points off the bench to lead the way.
Villanova has been dominant on both ends of the floor this season, ranking among the nation's leaders in a number of statistical categories. Offensively the Wildcats net 82.5 points per game, while handing out 16.8 assists per contest. They also rank 13th nationally in rebounds (42 pg), while holding foes to 64 points per game on 38.3 percent shooting. James Bell (15.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and JayVaughn Pinkston (16.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg) are the top scoring options and rebounders. Darrun Hilliard (14.4 ppg, 3 apg) keeps things moving with scoring and passing. Hart (9.4 ppg) has proven to be a valuable commodity as a reserve.
Syracuse also had very little trouble securing a win last time out. The Orange matched up against High Point and managed to take a 75-54 victory by shooting 53.7 percent from the field, while forcing 19 turnovers and outscoring their foes, 38-18, in the paint. Trevor Cooney knocked down five 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 17 points.
The Orange have not been lighting the world on fire offensively, but score a solid 76.5 points per game and do shoot a more efficient, 47.1 percent from the field. Syracuse's patented zone has also been effective, keeping teams to 62.1 points per game and 42.8 percent shooting. C.J. Fair (17.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) leads a quartet of players scoring in double figures for the Orange. Cooney (14.1 ppg) has been the second most productive scorer, though he gets the bulk of his production from beyond the arc, where he nets nearly 50 percent of his attempts. Tyler Ennis (12.1 ppg, 5.4 apg) and Jerami Grant (12.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg) also make an impact.
The Orange have a well balanced attack and a defensive scheme that will force the sometimes erratic shooting Wildcats to rely on outside shots more than they might like. Add in what should be a raucous crowd at the Carrier Dome and Syracuse should be able to stay perfect after Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Syracuse 77, Villanova 70
12/28 10:46:09 ET