College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Villanova vs. Syracuse: Perfect Match for Wildcats
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
- Villanova takes on Syracuse at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic.
- The Wildcats are a perfect matchup for the Orange's 2-3 zone.
- Anthony Dabbundo dives into this duel and makes his top pick.
Villanova vs. Syracuse Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Tuesday night’s Jimmy V Classic doubleheader begins with Texas Tech playing against Tennessee, but the second game is a renewal of an old Big East rivalry as Villanova and Syracuse meet at 9:30 p.m. ET in Madison Square Garden.
The Orange and Wildcats have only met twice since the Orange left the ACC in 2013, and haven’t met in seven seasons.
Since those meetings, Syracuse has become a perennial bubble team that has made two Final Fours, while Villanova has won two national titles and is aiming to compete for another this season.
Syracuse dropped three games out of conference already, including two in the Battle 4 Atlantis during Feast Week, but SU has bounced back with a thrilling double-overtime victory against Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and a road upset of Florida State on Saturday.
Villanova has two losses to UCLA and Purdue, both highly-ranked teams that Nova led late, only to falter down the stretch as its lack of depth was exposed.
Before looking at any Syracuse game, you have to consider how a team will matchup with its 2-3 zone. However, the Orange’s struggling defense and Villanova’s elite shooting ability make this a very difficult matchup for Syracuse.
Villanova just completed its three-game romp through most of the Big 5, beating La Salle, Penn and St. Joe’s by 26, 15 and 29 points, respectively.
The Wildcats had uncharacteristic turnover issues against both La Salle and St. Joe’s, but typically take care of the ball better than most teams in the country.
Fifth-year point guard Collin Gillespie is one of the best all-around guards in the nation. He shoots 47% from 3 this year and is ranked as the 10th-best player in the country by EvanMiya.com.
He’s joined by Jermaine Samuels and Justin Moore in the top 20 in player efficiency. Samuels and Moore can shoot over any zone that Syracuse throws at them.
The Wildcats play very slow tempo wise and can throw a number of different players in the high post if SU plays its 2-3 zone.
If Jim Boeheim tries the 1-3-1, the corners will be open for Nova’s sharpshooters. The Wildcats go four out with Dixon in the middle, or sometimes go five out, as well. Similar to how Colgate torched the Syracuse zone, Villanova should be able to do that at an even higher level.
The Wildcats rank eighth best in turnover rate, seventh best in 3-point shooting and fourth in overall offensive efficiency. They shoot 3s at the 22nd-highest frequency in the country too, so that fits perfectly into what the SU zone will try to force them to do.
Syracuse had its best defensive showing of the season against Florida State on Saturday, but it’s not clear whether it played great defense or the Seminoles just missed all of their 3-point looks.
FSU made just 4-of-30 from beyond the arc and actually kept its turnovers down, so I’m more inclined to believe it was the Seminoles missing everything from deep.
The Orange didn’t shoot that well from deep, either, making 9-of-30 (30%) from beyond the arc. Syracuse can shoot well from 3 at four of the five positions on the floor and has almost no bench, so it’s no secret what SU will try to do offensively.
Between Joe Girard III, Buddy Boeheim, Jimmy Boeheim and Villanova transfer Cole Swider, SU has the pieces to be excellent at 3-point shooting. Coach Boeheim called it one of the best shooting teams he’s ever had, and he’s been at Syracuse for 46 years.
Syracuse is 17th in overall offensive efficiency and while the Orange have resorted to some isolation ball at times and struggled to produce when shots aren’t falling, more often than not, SU will score on anyone.
The issue is SU’s defense, which Boeheim has switched between his 2-3 to a 1-3-1 and 1-1-3 to help protect the middle of the zone and the high post. Buddy and Girard don’t guard the perimeter well and the wings are also not plus defenders.
That’s a major problem against a Villanova offense that can space the floor and shoot as well as any team in the country.
The Orange rank 274th in effective field goal percentage allowed, don’t rebound out of the zone well and don’t have depth to throw different looks at the Wildcats. The zone is designed to force teams to shoot, and Villanova is happy to do just that.
Villanova vs. Syracuse Betting Pick
Syracuse just grabbed a huge conference win on the road in Tallahassee on Saturday and has now played consecutive games down to the final buzzer.
The Orange have played better in the last two games since the Battle 4 Atlantis, but Villanova is on a different level. As Auburn showed when it blew out SU in November — and as Boeheim admitted himself — the Orange aren’t a top-25 team.
I’m not sure there isn’t a team in the country more designed to tear apart the Syracuse 2-3/1-3-1 zone. While Boeheim makes adjustments better than most coaches, no zone is going to stop the sharpshooting Villanova offense.
Villanova’s main weakness this year has been a lack of depth, but the Orange aren’t deep enough to exploit that by going up-tempo or pushing pace. Villanova’s ability to switch ball screens at every position also hinders the Orange’s main offensive focus as they look to free up shooters.
The Orange’s defense has relied on steals, but Villanova doesn’t turn it over.
The matchup is bad for Syracuse and I’m willing to lay the points with the favorite in what should be a high-scoring game, even with Villanova’s slow pace.
Pick: Villanova -8.5 (Play to 10)