Villanova vs UConn NCAAB Odds, Picks: Big East Betting Guide
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: Cam Whitmore (Villanova)
Villanova vs UConn Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The Big East couldn’t have scripted a better backstory for this game.
UConn is off to its best start in years, climbing to the No. 2 ranking in the AP Poll during a 13-0 start.
After two cakewalks against bottom-tier Big East teams, the Huskies return from an eight-day hiatus leading up to Christmas, only to find traditional Big East power Villanova rolling into town for a game in Hartford.
This Villanova team is not the unquestioned leader of the Big East that it’s been throughout recent history. The transition from Jay Wright to Kyle Neptune has been rockier than expected, with the Wildcats suffering five November losses.
In order to lay its claim as Big East favorites, Connecticut has an early-season shot at the reigning kings of the conference — with the Wildcat dynasty hobbling.
Will Dan Hurley and the Huskies make a statement with a big win?
Villanova’s 2-5 start to the season was an abject disaster, yet with five straight wins under their belts, the Wildcats are starting to look like a different team.
In hindsight, most of the five losses look OK and if you squint, there’s excuses for all of them.
Playing Portland on the second night of a back-to-back, in Portland? Losing on the road at city-rival Temple in a game with a weird, oddly officiated ending? Those will seem explainable if Neptune and Co. right the ship.
The Wildcats appear to be doing so, largely thanks to the return of Cam Whitmore from an injury. The freshman phenom has a real chance to be a one-and-done player, heading to the NBA as a lottery pick in June.
Villanova is undefeated with Whitmore in uniform and has relied on him in a big way. Whitmore leads the team in usage rate and rebounding. He adds a dribble-drive element to the Villanova offense that was sorely lacking in his absence.
If his jump shot starts to connect — more than his current 25% outside shooting — his impact will be even bigger.
The Wildcats’ bigger issues — even with Whitmore in the lineup — come on the defensive end. The communication and synergy that came under Wright haven’t been as apparent this season.
Rim protection is a major issue. Villanova averages just 1.6 blocks per game as a team (355th nationally).
Eric Dixon is a really experienced big man, but he’s a wide-bodied center, not the springy type needed to anchor a defense. He’s only 6-foot-8 and Villanova literally does not have a taller player on the roster that has played more then 10 total minutes this season.
Against a team as big as UConn, that’s troubling.
In his fifth season at UConn, Hurley’s roster building has led to a title contender.
Adama Sanogo is the centerpiece, a real star capable of posting a double-double or even a 20-10 game any night.
Jordan Hawkins’ elevation from a 5.8 point-per-game scorer as a freshman last season to 14.3 points per night this year has been a revelation.
Tristen Newton, Joey Calcaterra and Nahiem Alleyne are experienced transfers from across college basketball who ready to fill a role and win big games.
Andre Jackson, a junior swingman with some major bounce, is the 60th-ranked NBA prospect by The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie. He’s UConn’s eighth- leading scorer.
Hurley has an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent on this team. Nothing makes that more apparent than when he sends Sanogo to the bench this season.
Hurley then trots out 7-foot-2 freshman Donovan Clingan. The Connecticut native is shooting over 70% from the field and would be top-five in the nation in block rate, offensive rebounding rate and defensive rebounding rate if he had enough total minutes played to qualify for KenPom’s leaderboards (his 33.4 defensive rebounding rate would lead the country).
It’s a deep, varied and experienced roster that has every chance to reach the Final Four.
Villanova vs. UConn Betting Pick
UConn’s size advantage is so hard to ignore when evaluating these two teams. I think it’s ultimately the reason that the Huskies win this game, though the opening line of 12 points feels like a lot.
Betting against Villanova in a key Big East battle feels like betting against Kansas in the Big 12. This game really could really feel like the first battle in a post-Villanova-dominant conference for the Big East.
I might regret it, but I’m going to let my pre-2022 priors influence my pick here. It just feels crazy for Villanova to get 12 points in a conference game (it’s even higher at 12.5 at some books).
The size is concerning, but UConn is also due for some defensive shooting regression. The Huskies’ opponents are not going to continue to shoot 27% from long range, like they have so far this season.
Villanova shoots 3s at a top-10 rate in the country. If the Wildcats get enough looks from deep, they should make enough to keep this closer than the spread.
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