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Villanova vs. Providence College Basketball Odds & Pick: Fade the Wildcats Without Collin Gillespie

Villanova vs. Providence College Basketball Odds & Pick: Fade the Wildcats Without Collin Gillespie article feature image

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Gillespie of Villanova.

  • Villanova plays it first game without starting point guard Collin Gillespie against Providence on Saturday.
  • It's unknown how the Wildcats will respond to losing their star, so is it worth looking at the Friars to keep it close?
  • Shane McNichol explains why its worth taking a flyer on the Friars to upset the Wildcats.

Villanova vs. Providence Odds

Villanova Odds-4.5
Providence Odds+4.5
Moneyline-200 / +170
Time | TVSaturday, 2:30 p.m. ET | FOX
Odds as of Saturday afternoon and via BetMGM.

Earlier this week, Villanova’s trip to Providence looked mundane on the Big East calendar. The soon-to-be regular-season conference champions were to face a minor hurdle from a Friar team very unlikely to reach the NCAA Tournament.

That’s no longer the case after Villanova’s season hit a major snag Wednesday.

Senior point guard Collin Gillespie tore his MCL and will no longer play in this game, or for that matter, the rest of the season. This will be our first complete look at Villanova without its senior leader and second-leading scorer.

For bettors, this game took on entirely new connotations and could be instructive for Villanova’s path moving forward.

Villanova Begins Life Without Collin Gillespie

There are probably fewer than 15 players in college basketball with more of a direct effect on the chase to win the national title than Villanova’s Collin Gillespie. His MCL tear in Wednesday’s win over Creighton sent shockwaves through the Villanova program and the chase for high seeds in this month’s NCAA Tournament.

Gillespie was the point guard of a team pegged as a 3-seed by Bracket Matrix while averaging 14.0 points, 4.6 assists and a usage rate over 22%. He will not be easily replaced in this Villanova lineup. Gillespie was playing 33.4 minutes per game. Jay Wright has been reticent to take his floor general off the court, with Gillespie topping 35 minutes in 10 Villanova games this season and all but one of the seven Wildcat games decided by single-digits.

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Mike Lawrie/Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Gillespie.

This has been Wright’s template with most of his rotation this season. Villanova ranks 329th in the nation in minutes played by bench players. Wright’s rotation stayed tight with only seven players consistently seeing action and a few others seeing the court in short spurts or in blowouts.

There is also no logical backup point guard to slide into Gillespie’s role. In the immediate aftermath during the game against Creighton, Villanova settled on a point-guard-by-committee approach, with a variety of players handling the ball, including 6-foot-9 power forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

We’ll certainly see more of junior guard Brandon Slater, who is a better defender than Gillespie but brings little to the table offensively.

There’s a chance that Wright turns to Bryan Antoine, a former five-star recruit who has struggled with injuries and the speed of the Division I game. Antoine has played just 24 minutes in two seasons at Villanova, and although he’s talented, has never looked ready for the spotlight.

Providence’s Response to New-Look Nova

In some ways, Villanova is lucky to see Providence in its first game without Gillespie in the lineup. The Friars force turnovers at the second-lowest rate in the Big East. The first time these teams met, Villanova won the turnover battle in a massive way, committing half as many turnovers as the Friars.

While no road game in Big East play will come without defensive intensity, Gillespie’s role as pressure-releasing ball-handler should not be missed as heavily as it might against a more pressure-focused opponent.

Instead, his role in creating offense, for himself and others, will be where Villanova needs other players to step up. Providence allows the lowest 3-point rate and 3-point percentage in the Big East, prioritizing close-outs and forcing teams into the mid-range.

This is an area where Gillespie thrives. In the first meeting between these teams, he found 14 field goal attempts for himself, but more importantly, dished six assists.

Providence will force more passive Villanova players to become creators off the dribble. The man-to-man match-up between Friar guard David Duke and Villlanova’s Justin Moore will be crucial to determining the Wildcats’ offensive success.

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The Friars on offense

Even if Providence’s defense can stymie a short-handed Villanova offense, the Friars will need to improve offensively. In Providence’s last four games, the Friars have topped 1.00 points per possession just once. Ed Cooley’s offense has sputtered in large part due to a dip in production from his team’s two leaders.

David Duke in that stretch has struggled to finish, managing only 30.6 percent on attempts inside the arc. He’s also averaging four turnovers per game over that period, failing to live up to his billing as Providence’s go-to guy.

The Friars’ second-leading scorer, senior big man Nate Watson, has also had issues of late. He’s managed just 11 points per game in Providence’s last four, down from his 16.7 per game this season. Watson has developed problems at the free-throw line. The senior is making under 45% of his shots from the stripe in February and has made just two of his last 10 foul shots.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Gillespie’s absence is clearly baked into the line in this game, but there’s value if a bettor can determine its true impact. At face value, he’s a massive piece of Villanova’s success, and the Wildcats don’t have the depth to properly replace his production.

Conversely, Villanova did not ultimately suffer after he left the game against Creighton. When Gillespie left the game around the six-minute mark of the first half, Villanova held a 12-point lead. After the final horn, the Wildcats won by that very same 12-point margin.

That could be a fool’s gold of small sample size for Villanova fans and backers. The Wildcats were able to hold that lead against a Creighton team currently embroiled in scandal.

Coach Greg McDermott admitted his team was “emotionally drained” following the fall-out from McDermott’s insensitive comments. Once the Bluejays could adjust to Villanova’s sans-Gillespie lineup, Creighton made waves in the second half, to the tune of a 19-2 run.

The prudent play is staying clear of Villanova until we have a better understanding of the impact of Gillespie’s injury, but Providence could be worth a flyer as Villanova adjusts to its new normal.

Pick: Providence +145.

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