Here are three things to watch for when Villanova (2-0) faces Purdue (1-1) in the second semifinal of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
Tip-off will be at approximately 9:30 p.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN2 (or ESPN3).
HARD TIMES: Typically one of the stronger programs in the Big East, Viilanova is going through a down period under coach Jay Wright, now in his 12th season. After seven straight NCAA tournament berths, the Wildcats missed out on March Madness last year, finishing with a 13-19 record. (The 19 losses tied a school record). And they were picked to finish 12th in the Big East this season in the conference's preseason coaches poll.
Villanova has won its first two games -- a 20-point victory over Division II District of Columbia, followed by a 12-point win over Marshall. The Wildcats' leading scorer is 6-foot-3 freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who is averaging 18 points per game.
ROUGH START: Purdue was stunned at home by Bucknell in its season opener, falling 70-65. The Boilermakers rebounded two days later to blow out Hofstra by 29. But that doesn't erase the concern over the loss to a Patriot League squad.
There is reason to worry. Coach Matt Painter has had to replace three stars who were selected in the NBA draft the past two years: Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. That's no easy task. Purdue was picked to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season in the conference's preseason media poll. Through two games, the team's leading scorer is 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Anthony Johnson (11.0 ppg).
FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: Villanova should have an edge in this game when it comes to crowd support, because of the school's proximity to New York City -- plus the Wildcats are more familiar with the Garden from playing in the Big East. But will Villanova fans come out in full force, considering the team's dismal prospects this season? We'll see.