The road gets tougher for No. 12 Villanova, and that’s not only because the Wildcats have to take on No. 17 Texas on Sunday in the Big 12-Big East Battle.
After a four-game, eight-day stay at Mohegan Sun Arena’s “Bubbleville” in Connecticut, the Cats (3-1) boarded a plane Saturday to Austin, Texas, hoping they emerge safely from a long flight and a relatively brief stay.
Coach Jay Wright said players, coaches and staff from both teams would know the results of their latest COVID-19 tests before the Wildcats’ departure.
“I’m concerned about everything for these guys,” Wright said Saturday. “We’re going later than we normally would. We probably would have gone in [Friday] night. If we’re playing a noon [Central time] game, we don’t want to come in this close to the game in case there’s delays. But because of COVID we’re going to spend as little amount of time in hotels as possible.”
The bench stood out in the Wildcats’ 87-53 victory over Hartford on Tuesday night, with redshirt freshman Eric Dixon and juniors Cole Swider and Brandon Slater combining for 40 points. Swider, however, may be pressed into starting duty Sunday if forward Jermaine Samuels cannot play.
Samuels hasn’t practiced all week because of a sprained finger on his right (shooting) hand suffered against Hartford, and Wright said he’ll be a game-time decision.
“He’s been really playing well off the bench,” Wright said of Swider. “He’s somebody we want to get in the game. It would be him or Slater. We could change our mind [Sunday], but both of them will play the same amount of minutes.”
The Longhorns (4-0) are coming off a tournament championship at the Maui Invitational, which relocated this year to Asheville, N.C., because of the pandemic. In the final on Wednesday, they defeated North Carolina, 69-67, on a jumper by Matt Coleman III with one-tenth of a second to play.
Texas, led by former VCU coach Shaka Smart, has quick guards and athletic frontcourt players. Coleman, a 6-foot-2 senior, leads the team with a 16.3-point average, and junior Courtney Ramey is a close second at 15.0 points. Texas is limiting opponents to 36.1% shooting from the field and 20.3% from the three-point line.
“They’re pretty long and athletic,” Wildcats guard Caleb Daniels said. “We just want to pretty much contain them and keep them off the boards and just be solid defensively. We’re coming into this game very defensive- minded as always. We want to just rebound and be solid on defense.”