College Basketball Odds, Pick, Prediction: Villanova vs. Marquette (Wednesday, February 2)
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Gillespie (Villanova)
- Villanova travels to Marquette with revenge on its mind after losing at home to the Golden Eagles earlier this season.
- The Wildcats are still trailing Providence in the Big East standings.
- Shane McNichol breaks down this Big East affair and offers up his top pick.
Villanova vs. Marquette Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
One of the best parts of February college basketball has diminished in recent years. As conference re-alignment rages on and many conferences swell to mega-leagues with 14 or more schools, basketball schedules are chiseled down.
There’s a special beauty in a conference playing a true double round robin format, with every team playing every conference opponent once at home and once on the road. Every game early in the season has a chance for revenge, adjustments and newfound drama.
Among the power conferences, only the Big 12 and Big East have stayed true to this format, with the rivalries and bad blood among the longtime Big East programs making their conference schedule perhaps the most enjoyable for fans.
The double round robin gets a chance to shine Wednesday night. Conference bully Villanova gets a chance for vengeance after Marquette dealt the Wildcats just their second Big East loss in Finneran Pavilion since 2014.
Villanova wants payback. Marquette has home court advantage in front of a raucous Milwaukee crowd. Which side should you back?
This Villanova team is chock full of familiar faces, yet there are some key changes and new names that sets this team apart from Jay Wright’s previous successful Wildcat clubs.
The biggest change for this Villanova team compared to previous seasons has been tempo. Villanova ranks as the third-slowest team in college basketball so far this season, averaging 60.8 possessions per game, adjusted for opponent by KenPom’s metrics.
This is Wright’s slowest team ever and the first time any of his teams have been among the 15 slowest in the nation.
Offensively, he’s putting the ball in the hands of his veteran guards and letting them take the time to create the right scoring opportunities.
So far this season, running things through Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore has been an effective strategy, placing Villanova among the most effective offenses in the country.
Villanova has struggled when teams force other Wildcats to beat them, especially when the frontcourt is expected to step up.
In Villanova’s wins this season, Eric Dixon is averaging 6.1 field goal attempts and is shooting 56.1% from the floor. His frontcourt partner Jermaine Samuels is averaging 7.4 shots per game and 48.7% shooting in Villanova’s wins.
In Villanova’s five losses, those numbers change starkly. Dixon has shot just 37.8% on 9.0 field goal attempts in losses, with Samuels taking 10.2 shots and making only 35.2%.
Opposing defenses can’t let the Villanova guards dictate the game. If you make the Villanova bigs score, the Wildcats’ offense sputters.
Marquette’s miracle run finally ended, when a two-point crunch time loss to Providence snapped the Golden Eagles’ seven game winning streak in Big East play.
The real change for Marquette came on the defensive end of the floor. Over the winning streak, the Golden Eagles held opponents to under 65 points per game on average, and only two of their seven opponents during that window managed more than 0.9 points per possession.
Maryland transfer Darryl Morsell is one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. He is a weapon for Shaka Smart on the defensive end, blanketing opposing playmakers.
He and his teammates also have the luxury of playing exterior defense with an elite rim protector behind them. Oklahoma transfer Kur Kuath has been erasing everything in the paint, ranking fifth in the nation in block rate.
The next level defense has opened up Marquette to score in transition. Sophomore Justin Lewis is a mismatch waiting to happen offensively, especially in the open court.
Villanova vs. Marquette Betting Pick
The first time these teams met, when Marquette was able to escape with a win, the Golden Eagles’ defense showed up in a big way. Villanova scored only 54 points on 0.89 points per possession.
If that happens again, Marquette could pull off the rare sweep of Villanova in Big East play.
I’m skeptical of Villanova’s offense struggling to that degree again. Much of the Wildcats’ issues in the home loss to Marquette could be explained away as simple shooting luck.
The Wildcats were just 6-of-24 from long range, including 1-of-6 from Gillespie. That can’t happen in a game where the Wildcats attempted only five free throws.
Wright will be sure to make the necessary adjustments for the Wildcats to be more aggressive off of the bounce.
In total, if I were a Marquette fan I would be concerned by how much the seven-game winning streak was driven by shooting luck. In those seven games, Marquette hit 43% from long range, while its opponents made just 28%.
That regression started to swing in the loss to Providence (Marquette was 5-of-19 on 3-pointers) and should continue to balance out.
Villanova comes in looking for revenge, and barring another ice cold night, it should fly home happy.
Pick: Villanova -4
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