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Daily Times assistant sports editor Terry Toohey covers the college sports beat like no other reporter. Catch his latest updates here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Villanova faces tough road

Well, so much for the easy part of Villanova's schedule. Over the next three weeks, the seventh-ranked Wildcats (13-1 overall, 2-0 Big East) will play seven games with a combined record of 86-16. Two of those teams (Cincinnati and Syracuse) are undefeated. Four (Cincinnati, Connecticut, Syracuse and Georgetown) are nationally ranked.
The most interesting matchup is Sunday's showdown with No. 24 and unbeaten Cincinnati (15-0).
The Bearcats, who were picked to finish 12th in the Big East's preseason poll, are off to their second best start in program history.
Cincinnati has been doing it with defense. The Bearcats lead the Big East and rank third nationally in scoring defense (53.9) and are second in the conference and tied for 11th in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense (37.6). Cincinnati also is tied for 12th in turnover margin (5.1).
On the offensive side of the ball, balance has been the key. Six players average between 6.1 and 12.9 points, led by Dion Dixon (12.9) and Yancey Gates (12.2). So much for missing Lance Stephenson, who left school after one season and has yet to play a game for the Indiana Pacers.
Cincinnati has not played the most rigorous of schedules. Of the 15 wins, only five have come against teams with winning records. The best victory was a 68-34 decision over Dayton (13-3) and a 66-46 romp over crosstown rival Xavier (8-5). The Bearcats have also beaten Oklahoma (8-6).
As for the Wildcats, guard Maalik Wayns is on a pace to have the third best season for assists in program history. The 6-2 sophomore had nine assists in Villanova's win over South Florida Thursday and is averaging 5.6 per game, fourth in the Big East. That's a 180 pace for the regular season, more depending on how far the Wildcats advance in the post season. That would be third behind Chris Ford (238 in 1971) and Stewart Granger (183 in 1982).


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