CINCINNATI (FOX19) - When asked about the opportunity to compete against the top-ranked team in the country, Chris Mack cracked a small smile.
"It's a heck of an opportunity and certainly not an easy one," Xavier's head coach told FOX19 Now. "Our guys are juiced up. It's going to be a great environment. It's going to be a big test for our team."
Xavier is winless in four road games at Villanova since joining the Big East – losing by an average of 22.5 points. Xavier played each of those games at Villanova's on-campus arena. Wednesday's game will be at Wells Fargo Center – the home of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Xavier and Villanova, along with Seton Hall, are considered the favorites to compete for the Big East championship. The Musketeers and Wildcats both enter play Wednesday night with one conference loss – only Seton Hall remains unbeaten in Big East play.
"When you're playing the defending (conference champion) going on four years now, you know they're going to be in the thick of it, if not at the top, at the end of the year," added Mack. "So if we want to contend, if we want to win a Big East title, you have to, at least, put yourself in position to be in a one possession game in that last four minutes. We have the talent to do that. Do we have the fortitude and the possession toughness?"
A frustrated Chris Mack vented after Xavier's 25 point loss at Villanova last season calling it "the annual Villanova a** kicking" minutes after the game. Xavier only made one of its final 22 three-point attempts in that game.
After Xavier's final practice Tuesday at Cintas Center, Mack said his team will have to limit turnovers and not be afraid to play deep into the shot clock to find quality shots.
Trevon Bluiett hasn't shot the ball at his usual clip since conference play started. Bluiett is shooting 35 percent through four Big East games.
Xavier will likely need him at top form to beat the nation's top-ranked team on the road.
"I think his teammates have to help him with that," said Mack of Bluiett's recent shooting numbers. "We have to have a better identity on offense. I feel like we've taken awfully quick shots and shots that aren't really earned. That's not an indictment of Trevon, but our entire team. Sometimes you have to play a little bit deeper into the shot clock. Villanova isn't probably the best team to do that against, but it'll be a good challenge for our guys."