1. It has a perfect record
Over the Thanksgiving break, Villanova came out sporting a sterling 7-0 record, highlighted by wins over two top-25 teams. Penn, on the other hand, came off a blowout victory over Niagara at the Palestra and followed it up with a close loss to Lafayette in Easton. Sporting a dismal 2-4 record, Penn will be in for a long night when it goes toe-to-toe with the 14th-ranked Wildcats.
2. It won the close games
No matter the deficit, the Wildcats have found ways to win thus far into the season. Down 12 points to Iowa in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game, ‘Nova capitalized on a clutch performance from senior guard James Bell to force overtime, where the Cats were able to finally pull away for the victory. Penn couldn’t quite pull away from its nail-biter with Lafayette and ultimately fell by three points.
3. Upsets Galore
In last weekend’s Battle 4 Atlantis, Villanova refused to yield to superior teams on its road to the championship. On Black Friday, the Wildcats pulled off the biggest victory of the young season with an upset of then-No. 2 Kansas. A late three from Ryan Arcidiacono with less than 11 seconds left on the clock sealed the monumental victory. Awaiting ‘Nova the next day was then-No. 23 Iowa, a team that manhandled the Quakers earlier in the season. Once again, the Wildcats found a way to win, overcoming a 12-point deficit en route to their overtime victory over the Hawkeyes. For Penn, however, it wound up on the wrong end of an upset bid, falling to a winless Lafayette squad after surrendering a nine-point second-half lead.
4. It cracked the rankings
Coming out of the turkey break, the Wildcats’ future looks bright, while Penn is struggling to build any semblance of momentum heading into Ivy play. With a Big 5 clash between the two squads looming, each team is heading on a different path. One team has risen to a No. 14 ranking after strong victories over superior competition, while the other finds itself mired in another tailspin to begin the season.
5. It won some hardware
Nassau set the stage for ‘Nova’s showdown with Iowa for the Battle 4 Atlantis title. Capping off a perfect 3-0 record in the tournament, the Wildcats eked out a close overtime victory over the previously unbeaten Hawkeyes to hoist the trophy.
6. Its young players stepped up
Sophomores Arcidiacono and Dylan Ennis are contradicting the sophomore slump by helping lead their team to its torrid start. After a stellar freshman season, Arcidiacono has continued to excel, making big shots in key moments. In the Kansas matchup, he hit the dagger three-pointer that sealed the upset for the Cats. Arcidiacono followed up his heroics with another clutch performance in their comeback win over Iowa. Ennis also joined in on the fun with strong performances in both weekend matchups.
7. Its defense has shut down prolific offenses
Up until this point, the Cats’ defense has shut down all opponents in its path, allowing more than 80 points only twice, with one coming in the overtime victory over Iowa. In their upset of the Jayhawks, ‘Nova only allowed 59 points to Kansas’ vaunted offense. Penn’s defense has been spotty to start the season, giving up an ugly 95 points to Iowa back on Nov. 22. Up until this point, the Quakers have struggled to keep high-powered guards at bay, conceding big performances to Tim Frazier of Penn State and Antoine Mason of Niagara.
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