MBB Preview: ‘Cats face Texas in New York

Joe DeNicholas

Opponent Overall

For the third time in four years, the Villanova Wildcats (6-0) will showdown against the Texas Longhorns (5-1). The ‘Cats host the Longhorns on Dec. 9 at Madison Square Garden. The game will be aired nationally on ESPN. 

The most recent matchup was two seasons ago when the ‘Cats shut down Kevin Durant en route to a 76-69 victory over then-No. 22 Texas. Although the personnel has changed, Coach Rick Barnes still likes to run a fast-paced offense led by quick sharpshooting guards and athletic forwards who can run the floor.

The Longhorns were picked to finish second in the Big 12 in the preseason coaches’ poll behind only the Oklahoma Sooners. Despite losing leading scorer D.J. Augustin, who split for the NBA Draft at the end of last season, the Longhorns still return a ton of talent and are a top-10 nationally ranked team.

The backcourt is highlighted by senior A.J. Abrams (17.0 ppg), who leads the team in both scoring and minutes played. Despite being undersized for the shooting guard spot, his lethal 3-point shooting stretches out defenses, leading to open lanes for his teammates.

Junior Damion James (15.0 ppg) is Texas’ primary frontcourt option. Extremely versatile, James is skilled at grabbing rebounds, blocking shots and stepping out to shoot the 3.

Texas’s lone loss came at the hands of Notre Dame in a 3-point slinging thriller at the Maui Invitational Tournament earlier this season in Hawaii.

Opponent Strengths

The talent in the Texas frontcourt will be a test for the Wildcat forwards. The Villanova frontcourt will need to stay out of foul trouble.

The ‘Cats must be active on the glass because the Longhorns average 8.2 more rebounds per game than their opposition.

For an early Christmas present, Wildcat fans should be asking for a healthy Dwayne Anderson. Out with a foot injury, Anderson would match up well defensively against Texas, providing athleticism, depth and energy to the Villanova frontcourt.

Opponent Weaknesses

The Longhorns are a team of few weaknesses, but the lack of a true point guard seems to be an early knock on Texas. Originally projected to run the show as point guard, Abrams moved over to shooting guard, allowing junior Justin Mason, who fits the role better, to play the point. Besides the five starters, Texas has many young and inexperienced players coming off the bench.

‘Nova 72, Texas 69