College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Villanova vs. UConn (Tuesday, February 22)
Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: R.J. Cole (UConn)
Villanova vs. UConn Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Villanova is in close pursuit of Providence at the top of the Big East standings, and still controls its own destiny to edge out the Friars for the regular-season crown in a couple weeks.
But the Wildcats have a difficult road test against Connecticut Tuesday night. The Huskies are still in search of a marquee conference win this season against the league’s elite, and they will get a perfect chance in this one.
Connecticut beat Marquette twice and Xavier and Seton Hall at home, but the Huskies lost at Villanova and lost at home to Providence and Creighton. They have no wins against the rest of the top four in the Big East, but have a chance to change that Tuesday night.
Villanova won the first meeting between these two teams in Philadelphia, 85-74, on Feb. 5 after the Wildcats dominated the interior and shot 54.5% from beyond the 3-point arc.
Connecticut has played significantly better since then, though, and the Huskies’ elite defense should be able to cause plenty of issues for the Wildcats in the rematch.
Eric Dixon was the most dominant player on the floor in the first meeting, even going up against Adama Sanogo in the middle. Early foul trouble hurt the Huskies then, but whether or not Sanogo has a better game against Dixon could decide this tight contest.
Villanova survived a couple of blip performances against Seton Hall and Georgetown at home, failing to cover and struggling at times. But the Wildcats are flying under the radar a bit nationally, as they’re winners of six in a row and in fast pursuit of Providence for the league title.
The Wildcats have three games left: at UConn, Providence at home and at Butler. Win all three, and they win the league title.
Offensively, Villanova’s game plan is simple yet beautifully executed. The Wildcats run a lot of pick-and-roll, they post-up through Dixon in the middle and they have five guys on the floor who can shoot the ball at any time.
Villanova’s biggest issues this season have come against long, more physical defenses and teams who have a lot more depth than them. Given the short bench for Jay Wright’s team, opponents that have a deep roster can expose them as games wear on.
Given how well UConn usually defends the post and takes away the opponents’ ability to get to and finish at the rim, Villanova is going to have to rely on its perimeter shooting to win this game.
And you wouldn’t expect this, but Villanova’s jump-shooting isn’t as elite as years past.
The Wildcats are just fifth in the conference in 3-point percentage, in part because Jermaine Samuels (22% from 3) and Brandon Slater (32% from 3) have had down shooting years.
Justin Moore, Collin Gillespie and occasionally Dixon can still step out and do damage from deep, but Connecticut has actually shot the ball better from 3 in the Big East this season.
As Providence learned at home at the Dunk last week in its loss to Villanova, if you can’t guard ball screens, you can’t guard Villanova. The Wildcats diced up the Friars, shot open 3s when they caught them going under ball screens far too often and were able to get to the rim at will.
The underlying analytics suggested that Villanova could exploit Providence there, but the Huskies are considerably better at guarding ball screens.
UConn ranks 37th in the country in defending the pick-and-roll, per ShotQuality. The Huskies are also 17th in defending ball screens and seventh best in the country at guarding the rim.
The defense allows a 50% conversion rate on near proximity field goal attempts — 11th best in the country, per Haslametrics — so I’m more inclined to believe that Dixon’s stellar game was more of an anomaly on that day than something that will repeated in the rematch on Tuesday.
Connecticut also just doesn’t allow a lot of open 3s and has been quite unlucky guarding the perimeter this season.
Per ShotQuality, UConn ranks 21st in defending catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. Yet on the season, the Huskies rank 194th nationally in 3-point percentage allowed, and teams are shooting 35.4% against them in conference play.
Because of the Huskies’ length — especially on the perimeter — you wouldn’t expect teams to shoot this well against them. They don’t concede that many open 3s and don’t concede much at the rim, either. Teams often settle for difficult mid-range shots against this defense.
Villanova converted a lot of its looks in the home contest, but the Huskies’ defense should make adjustments and make it difficult for Villanova.
Villanova vs. UConn Betting Pick
When the NCAA Tournament Committee revealed its top 16 that included the top-four current seeds, Connecticut was arguably the best team in the country not on their list.
The Huskies don’t have a top-four seed resume at this point in the season, but if anyone from outside that list is going to make a deep Final Four run come March, it might just be the Huskies.
Inconsistent offense has plagued them at times, but it feels as though they’re starting to figure some things out.
The elite interior defense and depth is already there for Dan Hurley’s squad. R.J. Cole is an excellent distributor and scorer himself, Sanogo can compete with anyone on the interior and Andre Jackson has quietly taken a big step forward for the Huskies.
Unlike last week at the Dunk — when the Wildcats had a clear exploitable matchup edge offensively against Providence — UConn’s long and physical defense should control the game and force Villanova to shoot its way to a win.
The Huskies will get revenge at home for their loss at the beginning of the month, and will finally earn a marquee win against one of the Big East’s elite.