Villanova Wildcats vs. DePaul Blue Demons

Villanova Wildcats Preview

Second-seeded and 11th-ranked Villanova opens Big East tournament play on Thursday, riding the momentum of winning seven of eight to close the regular season. The strong finish powered the Wildcats to a share of the Big East regular-season championship. Villanova’s outstanding offense features five double-figure scorers, led by 45.1 percent 3-point shooter Saddiq Bey at 16.1 points per game.

Collin Gillespie is not far behind at 15.1 points per game, while Jeremiah Robinson-Earl averages 10.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. In addition to balance, Villanova owes much of its offensive prowess to ball control: The Wildcats average turnovers on just 16 percent of their possessions, one of the best rates in the nation.

DePaul Blue Demons Preview

The 10th-seeded DePaul Blue Demons advanced to the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament with a 71-67 defeat of seventh-seeded Xavier on Wednesday, behind 23 points from Paul Reed and 18 from Charlie Moore. The Blue Demons face second-seed and co-regular-season Big East champion Villanova in Thursday’s quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden.

Villanova won both regular-season meetings, prevailing 79-75 in overtime on Jan. 14 and 91-71 on Feb. 19. DePaul brings a remarkably efficient defense into the matchup, boasting Reed’s 2.6 blocked shots and 1.9 steals per game, against a Villanova offense that is one of the most potent in college basketball. The Blue Demons, who rank among the nation’s best in generating turnovers, will need to create takeaways against the Wildcats.