Talent, excitement and high-level competition will be in the air Tuesday as No. 4 Villanova takes on No. 13 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Wildcats won the 2016 national championship over North Carolina, while the Bulldogs advanced to the 2017 NCAA Tournament title game before losing to the Tar Heels.
Now the seasoned squads will take aim at each other and, if the season’s first month is any indication, there will be plenty of points in Tuesday’s affair. The Wildcats are averaging 86.4 points per game - 30th-best in the country - and are coming off one of their best shooting games ever, while the Bulldogs are fourth nationally at 92.9 points per game. “Man, are they good,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Gonzaga, which only has one loss - in double-overtime to No. 5 Florida. “It’s going to be a great game.” Added Bulldogs guard Silas Melson of the matchup with the unbeaten Wildcats: “I’m really excited. This a big-time opportunity. Playing against Villanova, it means a lot and just playing in the Jimmy V Classic, that has a lot behind it as far as beyond basketball. Being invited to that kind of event means a lot.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT VILLANOVA (8-0): Six of the top seven scorers for the Wildcats are shooting at least 39.5 percent from the 3-point line with Mikal Bridges leading the team in 3s (21) and points per game (17.9). Jalen Brunson also averages 17.9 points and has a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio while shooting a stunning 64.6 percent from the field. Bridges, Phil Booth and Omari Spellman each made four 3-pointers Saturday as Villanova drained a school-record 19 3-pointers in their 41-point rout of Saint Joseph‘s.
ABOUT GONZAGA (7-1): The Bulldogs trailed Creighton by seven at halftime in their last game before destroying the Bluejays 54-30 after intermission. Freshman Zach Norvell Jr. scored all 21 of his points in the second half, Killian Tillie scored 22 points, Melson added 21 and Johnathan Williams chipped in 15 as the team won its third straight game. Williams (15.9) is the team’s leading scorer, while Josh Perkins is second at 14.3 points and has made a staggering 54.7 percent of his 53 3-pointers.
1. Tillie has shot at least 50 percent from the field in four straight games and is at 59.1 percent on the season.
2. After starting 3-of-13 from the arc, Spellman is 6-of-8 over the last two contests.
3. Booth’s scoring has increased in five straight games - from seven points to eight to 12 to 14 and most recently 17 against Saint Joseph‘s.
PREDICTION: Villanova 82, Gonzaga 77