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MBB Preview: Le Moyne and Penn

Ryan Sarbello/Villanovan Photography
Eric Dixon and Tyler Burton led the Wildcats with 15 points each in their win over American.

No. 22 Villanova’s men’s basketball team will play in two games in the coming week, the first at home against Le Moyne on Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m. and the second at the Palestra in a Big 5 matchup against Penn on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. 

The ‘Cats began the season with a dominant 90-63 win over American on Monday night. Villanova should see a similar blowout result against Le Moyne, but the ‘Cats may be faced with a slightly tougher task in their matchup with the Quakers.

Le Moyne traveled to Georgetown for its first game as a Division I basketball program on Tuesday night. While the game was too close to the print deadline to have a result in this article, it was widely expected that the Hoyas would pull out the victory. 

The new member of the Northeast Conference went 15-15 in D-II play last season. The Dolphins made it to the quarterfinals of the Northeast-10 Tournament, falling to Bentley. Le Moyne was voted ninth out of nine in the NEC preseason poll. Graduate guard Isaiah Salter is the team’s top returner, as he averaged 11.7 points on 40.4% shooting from beyond the arc in D-II last year. 

Like the ‘Cats, Le Moyne’s 2023-24 roster was greatly aided by the transfer portal. Players with D-I experience should help the Dolphins in their aim to not completely drown. Head coach Nate Champion added graduate guard Kaiyem Cleary from Ball State and junior forward Jamal Melvin from Northern Colorado. 

Even with Le Moyne’s slightly amended roster, Villanova should have no issue at all with the Dolphins in its second game as a D-I program.

The ‘Cats’ matchup on Monday night will see much better competition. In the first game of the revamped Big 5, Villanova will see the Quakers at “the Cathedral of College Basketball.” 

The Quakers finished last season 17-13, falling in the first round of the Ivy League Tournament to Princeton. They trounced D-III John Jay College in their opening game of the 2023-24 campaign, 102-57.

Penn will struggle to replace the talent of star guard Jordan Dingle, who transferred to St. John’s in the offseason. Dingle averaged 23.4 points, which was nearly 31% of the Quakers’ per game scoring output.

The Quakers’ top returner is senior guard Clark Slajchert, who averaged 13.6 points over the course of last season. He scored 14 points in the Quakers’ first game, sinking three three-pointers. Junior guard/forward Eddie Holland III led the way against John Jay, scoring 16 points in just 16 minutes on perfect 7-7 shooting. 

Penn was a strong offensive team last year, largely due to the talent of Dingle. The Quakers went 9-3 in games where they scored more than 80 points. It is yet to be seen if the Quakers can replicate that offensive success without Dingle at the D-I level.

For the ‘Cats, the game plan will revolve around controlling and slowing the tempo. In last season’s meeting, the ‘Cats were able to limit the Quakers to just 59 points in a 70-59 win. It marked the Quakers’ third-lowest offensive output of their campaign. 

Since 1950, the ‘Cats are 51-17 against the Quakers. The last loss to Penn came in the 2018-19 season.

Villanova’s emphasis is always going to be on the defensive side of the ball, but if it can keep the even spread of offense that it had in its opener against American, the ‘Cats should have no problem with the Dolphins or the Quakers. 

In Villanova’s first win of the season, the ‘Cats had six players go into double figures, including the new frontcourt of graduate forward Tyler Burton and redshirt senior Eric Dixon, who recorded 15 each to lead the way. Senior guard TJ Bamba scored 13 in his Main Line debut, while graduate guard Hakim Hart contributed 11 off the bench.

The even spread of offensive contribution is something Villanova hopes to maintain as it looks forward to Le Moyne and Penn. That, alongside maintaining defensive intensity, should prove vital to Villanova’s success in its next two games.

The game against Le Moyne will be televised on Fox Sports 1, while the game against Penn will be on ESPN+ nationally and NBCSN Philadelphia, locally.

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Owen Hewitt
Owen Hewitt, Co-Sports Editor
Owen Hewitt is one of two Co-Sports Editors in 2024. Entering his second year in this position, he is a Communications major specializing in journalism. Owen is a Memphis native and a die-hard Grizzlies fan, although his main loyalty lies with Memphis 901 FC. When not writing about basketball or soccer, Owen can often be found on stage, performing as part of Villanova's improv team Ridiculum. Owen has many goals in life, including going into sports journalism as a profession, but his main goal — always — is to stay jitty with it.
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