The Big East is pretty open as we begin the first Saturday in February. This afternoon’s early game has huge implications for the top. #17 UConn finds their way tp Philadelphia for a tilt with #12 Villanova and the Wildcats are a five-point favorite.
Providence has blown up everyone’s expectations and are 9-1 in the Big East and after that, there’s a bit of a log-jam for second place and below. Villanova is 9-3 in the Big East but clearly have fewer games in hand than the Friars. Marquette is next but sitting in a very interesting position is UConn who is 6-3 in conference play. This game is massive. The winner still has a shot to take the conference regular season crown while the loser is almost certainly eliminated from that chance.
The Huskies are looking to snap a four-game losing streak in this series, last winning at Villanova on March 22, 2014. Speaking of streaks, they just had a five-game winning one snapped on Tuesday vs. Creighton in which they shot 30% from the field and 24% from three. It’s not great, but it’s not that strange for UConn either. The Huskies are 56 made three-pointers away from first place… Villanova. They make up for it with tremendous defense, physicality and inside-the-arc shooting. In Big East play, the Huskies are actually much better in the league in overall field goal percentage (43.5%) and second in the league in scoring (78.2ppg).
Villanova has had at least a share of the regular-season league title in seven of the last eight seasons and there’s still time and games. The Wildcats still have two games with both UConn and Providence. However, Villanova has proven to be vulnerable. Georgetown and Xavier have led them at the half and for big portions of the games, Marquette has taken them out twice and Creighton put it on them. The league is deeper this year and Villanova isn’t very deep on their own. What saves them is outstanding top-line play and their tenacious defense. They get after you.
UConn has a frustrating defense and it’s more than enough to win. I worry about Villanova’s Justin Moore, who is a game-time decision after he turned his ankle late in the Marquette game. Losing him sends away 15 points per game. Villanova is also on a 1-4 ATS pace. Today, I’m on the Huskies wagon. Give me UConn +5.