Preview: Quinnipiac men’s basketball travels to face Villanova in season opener


Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Sierra Goodwill, Basketball Beat Reporter

Baker Dunleavy called Villanova University and its men’s basketball team “home” for decades.

“I grew up around that program,” he said.

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball head coach is in his second year at the helm for he Bobcats, but before that, he identified as a Wildcat.

Dunleavy spent seven years on staff at Villanova under Jay Wright. He began as the director of basketball operations in 2010 before being elevated to assistant coach in 2012 and to the associate head coach position in 2013, where he helped the Wildcats capture the 2016 national championship.

Not to mention he graduated from the program himself in 2006 and credits Villanova for teaching him many lessons he now instills at Quinnipiac.

But on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Dunleavy and Wright will be enemies as the Bobcats open their season against the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats.

“For 40 minutes we’ll hate each other, just like you would any other game,” Dunleavy said. “But after that we’ll go back to being family.”

Here’s what to know about the teams before the game:

Villanova Wildcats

  • No. 9 Villanova is coming off a national championship win over Michigan, 79-62, last season. The Wildcats have shaken the dust off this year, winning their first matchup against Morgan State 100-79.
  • Jay Wright enters his 18th season as head coach of the Wildcats, leading the program to five Big East conference titles and 13 NCAA Tournament appearances. This includes a trip to the Final Four in 2009 and two national championships in 2016 and 2018.
  • Villanova lost four key players last season: Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman. They averaged a combined 60.8 points per game.
  • Players to watch:
    • Phil Booth (Redshirt senior guard, 6 feet 3 inches) – Booth is a polished point guard who is equally skilled at finding his teammates for an open look or creating his own shot. He averaged 10 points per game last season and plays lock down on the ball defense.
    • Eric Paschall (Redshirt senior forward, 6 feet 8 inches) – Paschall is a dynamic forward who can shoot from the outside. He dropped a team-leading 26 points in Villanova’s season opener against Morgan State and added seven rebounds.

Quinnipiac Bobcats 

  • In his first season with the Bobcats, Dunleavy led the program to the conference semifinals. This just the second time the advanced that far since Quinnipiac joined the conference in 2013-14. The Bobcats were picked tied for No. 3 in the 2018 MAAC Preseason Poll.
  • Senior guard Cam Young was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA and the Bobcats leading scorer from a season ago will return as a graduate student in 2018-19. Young averaged nearly 21 points per game last year and was selected to the 2018 Preseason All-MAAC first team.
  • Quinnipiac’s roster boasts six new faces and three transfer students eligible to play this season. Freshman point guard Savion Lewis is expected to play a major role with the status of Rich Kelly’s injury unknown. Lewis averaged 34 points per game his senior year of high school.
  • Players to watch:
    • Kevin Marfo (Junior forward, 6 feet 8 inches) – Marfo transferred to Quinnipiac after playing for George Washington for a season and saw action in 23 of 35 games. The Bobcats are in need of a true big man, and he might just be the guy.
    • Jacob Rigoni (Sophomore forward, 6 feet 6 inches) – Remember the nickname “Three-goni?” This Australian earned that from draining 75 three-pointers last season and averaging nearly 10 points per game.