UCLA-Villanova Preview

UCLA-Villanova Preview

Published Nov. 23, 2010 4:33 p.m. ET

Villanova has yet to encounter much of a challenge while dominating mid-major opponents.

UCLA likely will provide a more difficult test.

The seventh-ranked Wildcats face the Bruins in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-off at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

Villanova (4-0) has won by an average of 28.5 points, including 86-41 against Lafayette on Saturday. Corey Stokes scored a game-high 19 points and Corey Fisher added 16 for the Wildcats, who have won their first four games for the fourth straight season.


Villanova lost All-American guard Scottie Reynolds from a squad which entered last season's NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed but lost in the second round to St. Mary's after going to overtime with 15th-seeded Robert Morris.

Once again labeled with a lofty ranking, the Wildcats hope to make a deep postseason run after last season's disappointing finish. Coach Jay Wright believes Fisher can lead the Wildcats much like Reynolds did throughout his four-year career.

"I think (Fisher) can be that guy to get us a big basket like (Reynolds) was for so long," Wright told the school's official website.

Fisher is averaging a team-high 16.5 points and has 16 assists to only two turnovers. He went over 104 minutes without committing a turnover this season.

"We're a team that keeps getting better every game," Fisher said Saturday.

A matchup with UCLA (3-0) is the first major hurdle on a less-than-impressive non-conference schedule before the Wildcats open Big East play.

Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson leads UCLA with 19.3 points per game and scored a career-high 21 with 14 rebounds in a 57-44 win against Pacific last Tuesday.

Tyler Honeycutt added 15 points for the Bruins, who are 1-5 in their last six regular-season games against ranked opponents.

"They've got length and athleticism," Wright said about UCLA. "It should be a great game."

The Bruins are coming off a 14-18 season after five straight trips to the NCAA tournament, including three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006-08. Ben Howland endured his worst season since taking over at UCLA in 2003-04, when the Bruins finished 11-17.

The Bruins have six freshmen and no seniors on their roster during what some may view as another rebuilding season, but Howland sees improvement led by Nelson and Honeycutt.

"I'm expecting a double-double from Reeves and Honeycutt (every game)," Howland said. "Those guys are capable of averaging double-doubles for the year. There's no doubt about that. I've talked to both of them about that - double-doubles on a consistent basis."

UCLA's defense has been stellar in its first three games, allowing 54.3 points. The Bruins held Pacific to 25.0 percent shooting.

This will be the first meeting between the schools since the second round of the 2009 NCAA tournament, when third-seeded Villanova beat sixth-seeded UCLA 89-69 on its way to the Final Four.