WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - In only its second game of the season, fourth-ranked Villanova will run into what coach Jay Wright calls "probably the biggest team we'll play all year."
That would be No. 15 Purdue, which will present a front line that goes 6-foot-9, 7-2 and 6-8 when the Boilermakers play the Wildcats (1-0) Monday night at Mackey Arena in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, a series matching teams from the Big East and the Big Ten.
The Boilermakers (1-0) are led by 6-9, 250-pound sophomore Caleb Swanigan, who scored 23 points, pulled down 20 rebounds and handed out six assists in a season-opening 109-65 victory Friday night over McNeese State. He is joined up front by 7-2, 290-pound junior Isaac Haas and 6-8, 225-pound junior Vincent Edwards.
"With that starting lineup, they might be one of the biggest teams in the country," Wright said Sunday. "So obviously, their rebounding is a concern. On defense, they're smart with their back line. They keep you in front of them and then they use their length to contest your shots. It's tough to post up on them. They're a solid defensive team."
According to Purdue research, Swanigan was only the third major-college player in the last 10 seasons to post a 20-20-5 line for points, rebounds and assists. Haas added 22 points and six rebounds while Edwards went for 19 points and 11 boards.
The Wildcats' tallest starter is 6-9 senior Darryl Reynolds, who plays up front alongside 6-6 Kris Jenkins. Josh Hart, at 6-51/2, swings between small forward and a third guard. They also have 6-7 Mikal Bridges and 6-7 Eric Paschall off the bench. They will likely use their quickness and their three-quarter-court press to speed up Purdue.
Wright said that rebounding and shooting will be the keys to the game.
"We've got to be able to make shots," he said. "If we don't, they'll back off us and their length and athleticism is such that we're not going to get to the rim on them. Then you can't get caught in a grind-it-out game with them with them just pounding the ball inside.
"We've got to be able to rebound the ball and not get out of position, trying to prevent the ball from going into the post, and then we're giving up offensive rebounding position."
Villanova began its season Friday night with an 88-48 victory over Lafayette. Wright said the two factors that stuck out in his study of the game tape were defense and the leadership of his seniors - Hart, Jenkins and Reynolds - "just getting us ready to play, setting the tone early, that was important on opening night."
Villanova will be only the second defending champion not from the Big Ten to visit Purdue. The other team was UCLA, coached by Indiana native John Wooden and starring Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), which played the first game in Mackay on Dec. 2, 1967.