Saturday afternoon No. 3 Villanova visits No. 11 Providence in a rematch of an entertaining game played in Philadelphia January 24, with the Friars winning in overtime. However both teams could enter Saturday’s game at less than full strength, with their starting big men dealing with injuries.
Villanova senior center Daniel Ochefu hasn’t played since that loss to Providence due to a concussion suffered in practice in the days leading up to the Wildcats’ win over Creighton, and the program announced Friday that he is doubtful to return to the court Saturday.
Without Ochefu the Wildcats have started junior Darryl Reynolds in the post, and fellow junior Kris Jenkins put forth two of his best outings of the season in wins over Creighton and St. John’s. If Ochefu can’t play against the Friars, those two will once again be key for Jay Wright’s team.
As for Providence, sophomore forward Ben Bentil was listed as day-to-day following an ankle injury he suffered in a loss at DePaul Wednesday night. Bentil, who has been one of the nation’s most improved players this season, played just 14 minutes against the Blue Demons as a result of the injury. Without him Providence would likely call upon freshman Quadree Smith, who himself had injury issues to navigate earlier this season, for more minutes in the paint.
With Bentil sidelined for most of the game freshman Ryan Fazekas also saw increased minutes, playing 29 in what was his most extensive action since playing 35 minutes in the Friars’ win at Rhode Island in early December.
Three days before they host West Virginia in their final non-conference game before the start of ACC play, Virginia Tech announced that it will be without one of its best rebounders.
Freshman forward Chris Clarke is out indefinitely after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. Clarke, who’s averaging 10.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, will undergo surgery to repair the fracture this week and at that point there will be some kind of idea as to how long he could be out of the lineup.
Head coach Buzz Williams has four other players averaging at least ten points per game, but where Clarke will be missed is on the glass. Zach LeDay, who is also Virginia Tech’s leading scorer, is averaging a team-best 9.4 rebounds per game and will remain the focal point in the paint for the Hokies.
Clarke’s absence means more opportunities for freshman Kerry Blackshear Jr., who’s averaging 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and junior 7-footer Johnny Hamilton (3.6 rpg) should see more minutes as well.
Wednesday’s game against West Virginia was already going to be tough. But to go into that contest a man down in the paint against a rotation that includes Devin Williams, Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon makes that matchup even more difficult for the Hokies.
Dan Hanner, who crunches numbers over at RealGM.com, puts out one of my favorite columns of the year when he breaks down the offensive and defensive efficiencies of teams that suffer serious injuries throughout the season.
You can read it here and here. It’s worth your time.
Some of the most interesting numbers that Hanner produced:
- Offensively, Kansas State is significantly better with Jevon Thomas in the lineup even though Thomas has been utterly atrocious shooting and scoring the ball. The reason for this is Thomas’ ability to create offense for others. Case in point: he was 1-for-6 from the floor in the win over West Virginia, but he had eight assists and no turnovers and took the pressure to create off of guys like Shane Southwell and Marcus Foster.
- On paper, it looks like Creighton is significantly worse defensively and significantly better offensively without Grant Gibbs in the lineup. Those numbers are a bit skewed because of a blowout win over Butler at home and a blowout loss to Providence on the road. There’s an argument to be made that Creighton is better offensively with Devin Brooks getting more minutes, but where the Bluejays miss Gibbs is with his toughness and his leadership. He’s a presence. He’s not going to be intimidated going on the road to play Providence or Villanova or Marquette, and he’s not going to let his teammates be intimidated, either.
- “Notre Dame has been playing like the 109th best team in the nation with [Jerian] Grant out,” Hanner wrote. Yikes.