Welcome back to PANodeposit’s coverage of Villanova Basketball. Last week, the Villanova Wildcats blew the doors off the Marquette Golden Eagles only to follow it up with a disappointing effort against a hot-shooting Creighton Jays squad.
What happened last week?
Against Marquette last Wednesday, Villanova played the best version of Villanova basketball. We saw 16 turnovers forced, great ball movement and defensive movement, amazing shooting, and smart all-around basketball. The Wildcats held a slight edge for much of the first half.
At 33-30, Villanova drew a technical, followed shortly after by a Caleb Daniels three to put the Wildcats up eight at the half. From there, Villanova opened up the lead in the second half, causing chaos on defense and extending the lead with a strong shooting performance. By the end, it was a 96-point offensive performance and a 32-point victory (second-largest of the season).
Last Saturday, Villanova traveled to Creighton to face off with the Big East’s number two team. The Wildcats were hot off probably their most impressive win of the year. They looked primed and ready to face Creighton. The problem was Marcus Zegarowski.
Villanova had no answers for Creighton’s point guard. Zegarowski scored a season-high 25 points, going 10-18 from the field. Last week, we said the focus of Villanova’s offense needs to be James Robinson-Earl scoring in the paint and getting after it on the glass. Robinson-Earl went just 3-13 from the field, and only pulled down seven rebounds.
As a whole, Villanova went 37% from the field and an abysmal 10-32 from three. Villanova was +2 on the turnover margin, 12-13 from the line, but it wasn’t enough to keep the game very close.
Creighton shot the daylights out of the ball, going 59% from the field and 46% from three. Creighton was +2 on the boards (an area we expected Villanova would have a slight edge).
The promising start on the week was completely flipped after the big loss Saturday. Now, Villanova will need to bounce back Saturday against UCONN if they want to keep their grasp on the Big East and a top-two seed in the NCAA tournament.
Villanova’s schedule thus far
NOV 25 (W) – Boston College 76-67
NOV 26 (W) – Arizona State 83-74
NOV 28 (L) – Virginia Tech 73-81
DEC 1 (W) – Hartford 87-53
DEC 6 (W) – Texas 68-64
DEC 11 (W) – Georgetown 76-63
DEC 16 (W) – Butler 85-63
DEC 19 (W) – Saint Joseph’s 88-68
DEC 23 (W) – Marquette 85-68
JAN 19 (W) – Seton Hall 76-74
JAN 23 (W) – Providence 71-56
JAN 30 (W) – Seton Hall 80-72
FEB 3 (L) – St. John’s 59-70
FEB 7 (W) – Georgetown 84-74
FEB 10 (W) – Marquette 96-64
FEB 13 (L) – Creighton 86-70
A preview of Villanova’s upcoming week
UCONN vs Villanova
This Saturday, Villanova (13-3, 8-2) will host UCONN in a crucial Big East game. It’s fair to say every Big East game will be crucial from here on out, but this one especially will be important towards keeping UCONN out of the “Big East regular-season conference champion” conversation.
UCONN is a team whose strength is the interior. They’re a strong rebounding team (offensively), averaging 5.5 blocks per game (6th nationally) and 6.7 steals per game. It’s not even that the defense is great. Possessions are limited with UCONN, so their points-allowed numbers are low.
Defensively, their rating is 97.5 (119th nationally). UCONN’s biggest weakness is their turnovers. They average 12.3 per game (251st nationally), so Villanova has to like the differential potential on paper. The major mismatch in this game is UCONN’s foul trouble.
UCONN puts opponents at the line 20.3 times per game (263rd nationally), and Villanova is the 6th best free-throw shooting team in the nation. If Villanova can cause havoc on defense, shoot decently, and keep the Huskies off the offensive glass, they can lean on their free throw advantage as a safety net to preserve a safe victory.
Prediction: Villanova 78 UCONN 66
St. Johns vs Villanova
Next Tuesday, Villanova will host St. John’s with an opportunity to get revenge on the Red Storm following a February 3rd loss. St. John’s is currently 5th in the Big East with a 14-8 (8-7) record.
In their first matchup, Villanova committed an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers. They also shot 32% from the field and 26% from three. Despite winning on the boards, the Red Storm just shot much better (42% from the field and 44% from three) and committed far fewer turnovers. A big part of the turnover issue the first go-around was the seven to zero block differential.
The Red Storm just looked exponentially more motivated in the game, moving with purpose and high effort across the board. This time around, the Wildcats will need to keep up the effort and tempo on both ends.
They’ll really need to take better care of the ball on offense and keep working to find good looks. If the shots aren’t falling, St. John’s doesn’t rebound well enough to really pull away. Villanova has multiple ways to handle the Red Storm, so the most critical part is to keep up the effort and tempo.
Prediction: Villanova 84 St. John’s 72
Villanova is +120 to win the Big East (+200 to make Final Four)
According to odds from the DraftKings online sportsbook, Villanova is currently +120 to win the Big East and +200 to make the Final Four.
The best time to bet a conference favorite is following a loss. The question you have to ask yourself is, “do I think the Wildcats will lose when they play Creighton again”? If the answer is yes, take Creighton at +200 to win the Big East. If you think Villanova will get revenge at home, take ‘Nova.
As for the Final Four bet of +200, play this out the long way. Realistically, the Wildcats will be a two to four seed in the tournament. If you were to just take $10 and bet the Wildcats ML the entire way through the Elite Eight, you’re looking at successive odds as follows:
R16: -260 to +130
R8: -210 to +180
If you were to bet $100 on Villanova +200, you can only profit $200. If you were to bet them ML each game, you can make anywhere from $250 to $500. It’s safer to just bet them each step of the way and that way, you can pull out if you feel the team has a tough road or they sustain a critical injury along the way.