Villanova will travel to Columbus to face the 16th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes as a part of the annual Gavitt Tipoff Games. This will be the first test of the season for this young Nova team. Going into a difficult road environment against a top team will be a great measuring stick for them. Jay Wright and the Wildcats will go up against a familiar foe in Chris Holtmann, who was the coach at Big East rival Butler from 2014-2017. In that time Holtmann always challenged Villanova, and the two coaches are very familiar with each other at this point, so don’t expect any surprises.
Buckeyes’ Two W’s lead to Two W’s
Ohio State comes into the matchup following two impressive wins against Cincinnati and UMass Lowell in the past week. The two W’s were in large part thanks to the solid play of the Buckeyes’ two W’s: Walker and Wesson. Ohio State is led by guard CJ Walker and center Kaleb Wesson, but, like Nova, they have a lot of young players with potential. Players like DJ Carton, Duane Washington, and Alonzo Gaffney are all going to be key contributors as the season moves on and in the next few years. But the key to their success is Wesson.
Kaleb Wesson is their junior center and the leader on the Buckeyes team. He will look to build on his double-double against UMass Lowell going against the relatively soft interior defense of Villanova. His main strength is his rebounding as he has at least 11 boards in each of his first two games. He is also a very capable passer out of the post and recorded 5 assists in his last game. Villanova will have to be extra wary of collapsing in on him when he gets the ball in the post. They cannot overcommit or they will get burned on kick-out threes. If Villanova’s big men can limit his presence, it will be a long night for the Buckeyes’ offense.
DJ Carton is the Buckeyes’ freshman point guard who has the burst to blow by a defender and score in bunches. He will be a difficult matchup for Justin Moore and Collin Gillespie. Andre Wesson has been touted as the Buckeyes’ best shooter. He looks to return to the court after missing the UMass Lowell game with an eye injury. Ohio State has plenty of talented two-way players, and their defense is definitely a strength. They will need a couple of role players to pick up offensively as they rely heavily on Kaleb Wesson.
Nova’s Wing Advantage
One area where the Buckeyes lack is in wing depth, which fortunately is where Villanova is bountiful. Nova should be able to take advantage of this and keep a steady rotation of wings and guards to keep them fresh and attacking. Saddiq Bey, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Cole Swider will all look to build on impressive performances in their season opener. However, they will be up against a far more difficult opponent this time around.
Ohio State has played very well defensively and currently ranks as KenPom’s seventh team in adjusted defensive efficiency. However, Ohio State has yet to play a team with the number of shooters that Villanova has. Just about anyone on the court can shoot the three-ball for the Wildcats, and with the strong defensive presence in the paint, I expect Villanova’s guards to be letting it fly.
Rest or Rust?
Villanova has not played a game since their opener against Army on the 5th. This break could be good for the young team. It’s a chance to review plenty of film, prepare for OSU, and iron out early season kinks on the practice court. However, they do run the risk of coming out shaky after not playing for a week. This will be the first real taste of competition for each of these teams, and with young players, expect whoever punches first to take control of the game. Expect the game to be relatively low scoring and close all the way through.
Despite going on the road into a tough environment, I give Villanova the edge. I expect this game to be a dog fight through to the end, but Villanova’s offense should overcome Ohio State. Nova matches up well against the Buckeyes, and if Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree can handle Wesson, Villanova should take this battle.
Looking ahead: Villanova hosts Ohio at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday to kick off the Myrtle Beach Invitational on Saturday, 11/16.