UConn vs. Villanova Odds & Picks: Why to Bet the Huskies in Big East Battle (Feb. 5)
Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tyrese Martin (4), Adama Sanogo (21), and Tyler Polley (12).
UConn vs. Villanova Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The two betting favorites to win the Big East both suffered a midweek hiccup defeat heading into Saturday’s clash in south Philadelphia. UConn lost to Creighton at home by four on Tuesday night, and Villanova lost in Marquette by 10 on Wednesday.
This game becomes a must-win for both teams that are two games behind league-leader Providence in the loss column.
Villanova still gets two games with both UConn and Providence and could catch and pass the Friars in the standings because of that, but the loser of this game is all but out of the Big East regular-season title conversation.
Villanova has had at least a share of the regular-season league title in seven of the last eight years, but this version of the Wildcats has lacked the depth and physicality to consistently dominate in an improved league this season.
Connecticut has all of the length and size inside to challenge Villanova, but will the Huskies be able to defend the perimeter enough to prevent Villanova from shooting them out of the Wells Fargo Center?
UConn lost two games by a combined seven points in December to Providence and West Virginia, but the Huskies have been otherwise quite consistent this season when Adama Sanogo has been in the lineup.
The early-season win over now-No. 1 Auburn looks better with each passing game, and the Huskies won comfortably at Marquette in Big East play.
They’ve been one of the best interior defenses in the entire country, ranking third in 2-point defense, 11th in near proximity defensive field goal percentage allowed and fifth in block rate nationally.
The Huskies haven’t been quite as good at defending the perimeter when you look at the baseline 3-point stats allowed. But they’ve actually been pretty unlucky defensively. Connecticut ranks top-20 in pick-and-roll defense, top-15 in ball screen defense and eighth-best in preventing open catch-and-shoot 3-point looks.
The interior defense is as good as the topline suggests, but the perimeter defense has been much better than the top-line numbers show. That’s critical against a Villanova offense that is elite at spacing the floor, shoots the lights out and runs ball screens and pick-and-roll at some of the highest frequencies in the whole country.
Connecticut’s length and excellent wing defenders can switch 1-4 with the Villanova offense and not allow the Wildcats to use switches to exploit matchups.
The Huskies boast a legitimate top-10 defense, and that should keep them competitive on Saturday.
Villanova made one run midway through the second half at Marquette, but the Wildcats were outplayed for nearly the entire 40 minutes in Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Marquette hit the Cats early and outplayed them across the board. There’s a clear blueprint of teams that have had success against Villanova this season.
Purdue’s frontcourt length, Baylor’s physical wing defenders and the Marquette ball pressure and defensive activity and length all flustered the Wildcats. Those three teams make up four of the six losses that Villanova has this year, and UConn has a similar profile to those teams.
One major issue for Villanova that won’t be solved and limits its ability to be a true title contender is the lack of depth. Nova ranks 334th in bench minute usage this season, and fouls or injuries can leave it exposed if it needs to play more than seven players for significant minutes.
Justin Moore turned his ankle late in the Marquette game and is questionable to play. Even if he goes, it’s hard to imagine he’s 100% healthy.
Caleb Daniels is a more than capable replacement off the bench, but he and Jordan Longino are about all of the reliable players the Wildcats have off the bench.
UConn gets a lot of points at the line and draws a ton of fouls, so if big man Eric Dixon or Daniels were to get into foul trouble, who does Villanova turn to?
UConn vs. Villanova Betting Pick
Both KenPom and BartTorvik see the Wildcats as a considerably better team than the Huskies, but I’m not quite buying those numbers. Villanova has one of the shortest benches in the entire country, and it’s even shorter with Moore’s status in doubt for this game.
Connecticut has the edge in depth and length, and if the Huskies can get to the rim and foul line and get Villanova in some early foul trouble, it could spell serious trouble for the Wildcats.
Unless Villanova just gets red-hot from 3 and stays hot, the physicality and length of the Huskies will keep them in this game.
I think Connecticut has a real shot to pull off the upset in South Philly. Similar to how Marquette and Baylor’s ball pressure and strong wing defenders gave Villanova fits, I think the Huskies can do the same.
It’s a good bounce-back spot for the Wildcats off the loss, but UConn will also be all-in off a loss, and I think the matchup favors the visitors. Anything at +6 or better is worth a play on Connecticut.