With a name that can only be pronounced with a deep, epic score resonating the background, the “Holy War” between Villanova and St. Joseph’s invokes that timeless Augustian-Jesuit rivalry that is just as hot now as it was 400 years ago.
Wait, it is, right?
Despite having only won three times in this rivalry in the past decade, the last coming in 2008 and the other two during the Jameer Nelson era, the circumstances that lead up to this year’s matchup make for the best chance at a St. Joe’s win in nearly four years.
And the Hawks are certainly hyping it.
They are coming off a big 80-71 win over No. 17 Creighton, which included 29 points from guard Carl Jones and a monster slam from sophomore forward Ronald Roberts.
After getting out to a 4-0 start, the Wildcats have hit a rough patch, having lost four of their last six, including losses to Santa Clara and crosstown rival Temple.
During that game against Temple, a sign in the Owls’ student section read “This is Our City.”
Surely some overzealous Temple partisans wanted a jab at ‘Nova, because it’s far too early to say Villanova has lost Philadelphia, but the national buzz has certainly quieted after the Wildcats’ skid to end last season and their up-and-down start this year.
To their credit, three of those four losses have come to formidable teams (St. Louis, Temple, and No. 10 Missouri) and Villanova will enter this game with a head of steam, having dominated Boston University 45-17 in the second half to win, 68-43, on Tuesday night.
St. Joe’s has a chance to make an intracity statement on Saturday, with Phil Martelli’s team a pleasant surprise, after being picked to finish 7th in the Atlantic 10. It will be in their gym, with their crowd, coming off a win over a Top 25 team.
The biggest matchup to watch will be in the backcourt, with Maalik Wayns for Villanova and Carl Jones for St. Joe’s. Wayns is coming off a disappointing 3-for-14 performance against BU, while Jones, as mentioned, dropped 29 against Creighton.
Tip is at 8pm.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_