Villanova vs. Saint Mary’s Betting Guide: Reigning Champs Tested Early in NCAA Tournament

Villanova vs. Saint Mary’s Betting Guide: Reigning Champs Tested Early in NCAA Tournament article feature image
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USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Villanova Wildcats guard Phil Booth (5), St. Mary’s Gaels guard Jordan Ford (3).

#6 Villanova vs. #11 Saint Mary’s NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Villanova -4.5
  • Over/Under: 130
  • Date: Thursday, March 21
  • Time: 7:20 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS
  • Location: Hartford, Conn.

>> All odds as of Wednesday evening. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and live win probabilities on your bets.


These two teams last met back in 2010 in the second round of the NCAA tournament when No. 10 seed Saint Mary’s upset No. 2 seed Villanova in Providence.

That Gaels team was led by guard Matthew Dellavedova and big Omar Samhan under the same coach they have today, Randy Bennett, who has been in Moraga for 18 years.

Villanova’s head man, Jay Wright, has also been on the main line for 18 years as the head coach of the Wildcats. The defending champs will look to add a third national title in the past four years, but will they stumble on the first weekend against Saint Mary’s once again?

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.

Most Important Matchup in Villanova-Saint Mary’s

Villanova is one of the most 3-point-reliant teams in the nation. That’s nothing new for the Cats under Jay Wright in recent years, but their 3-point frequency has ticked up significantly this season. In fact, only two other teams in college basketball shot more 3’s per field goal attempt.

That could spell trouble against a Saint Mary’s defense that has always emphasized limiting the 3-pointer under Bennett, especially late in the shot clock. That’s when Villanova usually gets its best looks by making the extra pass.

Saint Mary’s allows opponents to shoot just 31.8% from deep, which ranks in the top 50 nationally. More importantly, the Gaels have allowed an opponent 3-point rate of 31.8% — the ninth-lowest in the country and second-lowest among teams in the NCAA Tournament field.

The Gaels must contain this perimeter-reliant Villanova attack.

Battle of Snails

Besides its 3-point reliance, the other thing that sticks out when you look at Villanova’s profile is its pace. The Wildcats are in no rush on the offensive end, ranking 339th in Average Possession Length.

And Saint Mary’s is even more methodical on the offensive end, ranking 350th in that category. In a matchup of two pure snails, I think the under holds value especially since both defenses match up fairly well.

With a such slow pace expected, grabbing the points with Saint Mary’s becomes even more valuable.

Other Factors to Consider

This game will be played in Connecticut, which has to give a slight edge to Villanova for travel and potential fan presence. I make that edge worth approximately 1-point to the line.

However, that is somewhat mitigated by the rest advantage the Gaels will enjoy. Saint Mary’s hasn’t played since the WCC final on March 12.

Conversely, Villanova just played three games in three days this past weekend en route to a third-straight Big East championship. That could be a concern for a team that showed signs of fatigue down the stretch of the regular season.

Neither team is very deep, so that extra rest could be invaluable this time of the year. After considering all factors, I make this game Villanova -3 with a total of 126.

Stuckey’s Picks: 

  • St. Mary’s +4.5 (I’d play down to +4)
  • Under 130.5 (I’d play down to 128)

Our Projected Odds for #6 Villanova vs. #11 St. Mary’s

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Villanova -3
  • Total: 137
  • Proj Score: Villanova 70 | St. Mary’s 67
  • Win Probability: Villanova 62.1% | St. Mary’s 37.9%

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game is from the individual writer and are based on his research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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