Sunday Betting Breakdown: Seton Hall, Villanova Battle in Big East Clash

Sunday Betting Breakdown: Seton Hall, Villanova Battle in Big East Clash article feature image

Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports

I’ve heard there’s some big sporting event later today. But as you pass the time before this so-called “Super Bowl” actually kicks off, read up on a pair of intriguing college basketball matchups with heavy underdogs looking to make some noise against major conference elite. Some of you might also have some added interest since the two games I will cover are tied into a number of the posted cross-sport Super Bowl props: Seton Hall at Villanova and Illinois at Ohio State. As a Colts fan, my only input on this so-called big game is “just not the Patriots again”.

Also, make sure to check back here later today for some #MAACtion notes, and follow me on Twitter @jorcubsdan for injury updates, in-game analysis and second-half predictions.

Seton Hall @ Villanova (-12.5)

12:00 PM ET

When Villanova is humming, there’s no question they’re the best team in the country. In fact, they can look downright unbeatable. However, they do have exploitable flaws. I’ll examine if a physical Seton Hall team with a talented frontcourt can take advantage of some of those weaknesses.

Most know about the capability of the Villanova offense. Jay Wright’s four-out, one-in motion scheme is often untouchable. Wright has the best pure floor general in the country running the show in Jalen Brunson, who has four players surrounding him who can shoot, dribble and pass.

The Villanova offense will continue to shred, but the injury to Phil Booth has had a significant impact on their defensive efficiency. Per Hooplens, Nova’s defense is 14% less effective without Booth from a points per possession perspective.

Freshman Collin Gillespie has shown promise offensively in Booth’s stead, but he simply doesn’t have the same defensive capability. As a result, Jay Wright, known for switching on every ball screen, has simplified things on that end. Without Booth, the Wildcats have allowed 160 points in 137 possessions to Marquette and Creighton. Bottom line, they looked lost at times against those two high-powered backcourts.

Can Seton Hall exploit this? Well, Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington have been an efficient ball screen duo for the Pirates, but Villanova has Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo, both of whom can switch onto anyone 1-4. Nova really missed Booth against smaller, quicker guards (like Marquette and Butler’s Kamar Baldwin). That’s not an attribute I would ascribe to Seton Hall’s backcourt.

I do also still have concerns about Omari Spellman and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree defending at the rim. In fairness, they rate adequately in post defense, but Seton Hall has arguably the Big East’s best frontcourt. However, Angel Delgado has played poorly for close to a month now. He’s failed to post an offensive rating over 100 in six straight games. That said, he and Ish Sanogo can match Spellman’s heft, and both have far more physicality than rail thin Cosby-Roundtree.

Simply put, Nova has defended at a mediocre level in both rim and post defense. They grade out in just the 33rd percentile in post defense per Synergy, and stand at 103rd overall in rim defense per Seton Hall can stay in this game with points at the rim and second-chance points against the Big East’s worst defensive rebounding team. The Pirates must ugly this up, similar to the lines of their 55-53 Big East tournament loss last year that they played at 55 possessions. They can not afford to have this play out similar to their two regular season defeats where Nova ran wild.

The PICK: Lean Seton Hall +12.5

Illinois @ Ohio State (-12)

12:00 PM Eastern

I’ve discussed Ohio State’s dramatic turnaround at length on this site. It essentially boils down to both the health of superhuman Keita Bates-Diop and Chris Holtmann’s game planning. Holtmann essentially runs the same offense he ran at Butler: ball screens for his big guards to create mismatches and weak side off-ball motion to keep defenders away from Kaleb Wesson in the post. It’s not necessarily Rick Byrd or Bob McKillop action, but it works because the Buckeyes ALWAYS attack the weakest defender with KBP and Jae’Sean Tate, who are big and abusive when working downhill.

And against Illinois, those “weak links” exist all over the floor.

Illini coach Brad Underwood made his hay at Stephen F. Austin with a spread motion offense and even more for a pressing, denial-heavy defense. He famously abandoned that scheme six games into his tenure at Oklahoma State, opting for a pack line defense that saved the Cowboys’ season. However, in his first year at Illinois, Underwood is sticking to his guns. As a result, the Illini generate turnovers on 24.5% of their defensive possessions in Big Ten play.

Ohio State PG C.J. Jackson had his turnover issues in OOC play. However, he has been phenomenally steady in conference play, turning the ball over at just a 14.4% rate. Trent Frazier and Te’Jon Lucas have actually been solid defending in ball screens, but they’re exceptionally small compared to Tate and KBD, who go 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-7, respectively. I mentioned that Holtmann almost exclusively gears his offense toward attacking the weakest defender on the floor. Against Illinois, that would be Mark Alstork on the perimeter and any Illini rim defender (Mike Finke, Leron Black or Kipper Nichols). Illinois’ frontcourt has major issues against any type of physical frontcourt. Wesson, who has a Jared Sullinger type body in the post, should give the Illini fits.

Illinois has played better as of late, with wins over Indiana and Rutgers. However, a well-rested OSU is a major step up in class. When Penn State beat the Bucks, OSU was running on tired legs, and the Nittany Lions have the athletic wings to match Tate and KBD. Underwood simply doesn’t have either luxury at his disposal. Ohio State should cruise.

The PICK: Ohio State -12

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports