Purdue and Villanova have only met twice and the Wildcats have won both games. The last meeting occurred at Madison Square Garden, where a very questionable flagrant foul on D.J. Byrd turned an almost certain victory into an overtime loss. Now the two teams meet in a huge early season contest, so we talked to SB Nation’s Big East Coast Bias and Robert O’Neill about it:
T-Mill: This looks like a game where each team's strengths attack the other's weaknesses. Purdue has an excellent front court against a so-so one. Villanova's guards are amazing against Purdue's unproven back court. Does anyone really have a significant advantage?
Robert: I really don't think either team has an advantage. I think Purdue's size could definitely give Villanova fits, but I think Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart could give Purdue fits just the same. I will say, Caleb Swanigan is going to need to be someone Villanova figures out how to gameplan for from the jump. If the Wildcats let him get comfortable on offense or defense down low, they could be in for a long night. This could very well be the best game in the short history of the Gavitt Games, and it's definitely one the schedule makers got right.
T-Mill: Is there a lot you can take form either team's opening game win over overmatched competition?
Robert: There are a couple of small takeaways on either side, such as Caleb Swanigan still being dominant or Villanova still playing the same style of basketball they did last year, but overall, not really. I mean, Villanova went on a 25-2 run to open the game against Lafayette, I highly doubt things come that easily for them against Purdue on Monday night, just like I'm sure Purdue fans aren't expecting another 109 point outburst.
T-Mill: Villanova doesn't face a lot of arenas every year like Mackey Arena. Is there concern going into what is a dungeon of noise?
Robert: I definitely think it could play a part, but I also think Nova's experience going to arenas like Creighton's CenturyLink or Xavier's Cintas Center will help them. It's never easy to go on the road in college basketball, even more so when you're going to one of the loudest/biggest arenas in the nation like Mackey. If Villanova doesn't get off to a good start and Purdue does, a ravenous crowd is another obstacle Villanova will have to deal with.
T-Mill: Was there anything in the opener agaisnt Lafayette that was cause for concern?
Robert: I don't think it's necessarily a concern, given that they'll probably look to do it again Monday night since Purdue is a big team, but Villanova shot a ton of threes in their season-opening victory over Lafayette. The Wildcats went 15-41 from the field, and 33-67 overall. So half of their shots were threes. It's a fine strategy so long as the shots start falling, but if the longball doesn't fall for the Wildcats, Purdue could present a tough matchup for the Wildcats trying to work the ball inside.
T-Mill: What is your prediction?
Robert: It's so tough to make a prediction because of all the even matchups and variables on either side. I know Purdue has fared quite well at home recently, but I imagine Villanova spent most of their offseason gameplanning for Purdue, since they knew Lafayette wasn't going to post much of a challenge. I like the defending champs by no more than five points, but if Swanigan plays like he did the other night and if Vince Edwards can be as good as usual, the Wildcats could be in for some trouble. I also don't think this is a particularly bad loss for either side, given both teams are sitting in the top 15 of the AP Poll. More important than a win or a loss in a game like this is using it to learn what you need to improve on as you keep going through the noncon.