Villanova has looked more like the team we saw under Jay Wright lately, playing much better with a fully healthy Justin Moore. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the damage was likely done early in the season. All they can do is build momentum and hope for a run in the Big East Tournament.
UConn has also been on an upward trajectory heading into March. Do the Huskies have one more regular season win in them? Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s matchup in Philadelphia.
UConn vs. Villanova Odds
UConn enters as a 2.5-point road favorite, sitting at -134 on the moneyline. The over/under is set at 138.5 points.
Villanova has been surging lately, but that isn’t enough to make the Wildcats the favorites even at home. Much of that has to do with the way UConn’s offense has turned it on of late. Are the Huskies due for a loss, though?
UConn vs. Villanova Prediction & Pick
It’s hard to see this game turning into a comfortable win for UConn with the way Villanova has been playing lately. While this is not the same Villanova team as past seasons, their success down the stretch isn’t a fluke. The offense has many more options than it did at the start of the year, when it wouldn’t have had a prayer against a team as loaded as UConn.
Defense, while imperfect, has looked like a strength more often than not for Villanova lately. The Huskies are still relying on inconsistent shooters outside of Adama Sanogo. UConn has a wealth of options, which has made a difference, but it’s hard to rely on any one of them in a tough road environment. I’ll take at least a close game here and roll with Villanova +2.5.
UConn vs. Villanova Key Matchups
Villanova’s offense has started to pull it together with 70+ points in three of its last four games. The biggest reason is Justin Moore, who’s playing with renewed confidence after last year’s Achilles tear and scored 23 points in this week’s win over Seton Hall. Expect him to have the ball in his hands often on Saturday.
Kyle Neptune’s team does its best work inside the arc, sitting 226th in the nation from three, but they are 31st in the nation in three-point attempts. That’s going to be a challenge against UConn’s defense, which has been the Huskies’ one major consistency this year. Opponents are shooting 30.0% from deep against UConn. The Huskies also limit teams to 15.5 attempts per game.
In reality, there aren’t many ways to beat UConn’s defense. Opponents also shoot just 45.3% on two-point attempts due in part to Adama Sanogo’s presence near the basket. Mid-range shots from freshman Cam Whitmore will be key for Villanova.
Eric Dixon’s work near the basket will also be important. His ability to shoot from outside has made him a serious offensive threat and allowed him to erupt for 31 points against Creighton last weekend. Now that defenses know they have to monitor his outside shooting, it’ll be interesting to see if he gets more opportunities closer to the basket.
These are all options Villanova didn’t have in December. Whitmore missed the start of the season, Moore only recently returned to form, and Dixon has improved as the season has gone on. With some depth finally in hand, the Wildcats are a threat to teams like UConn.
Villanova remains a poor rebounding team, sitting 342nd in the nation. Eric Dixon is a solid rebounder, but he could have a tough time against Adama Sanogo and a Huskies team that ranks 15th in rebounding. The Wildcats were able to pull even with UConn on the boards in December, even in a loss. It feels like they’re going to need a similar performance.
Defense has been about average for Villanova this season, and that trend has continued lately with some strong performances (vs. Xavier, Butler) and shakier ones (vs. Providence, Seton Hall). For UConn, an inconsistent offense has really started to come on strong lately.
Sanogo continues to be the focal point, but outside shooting has started to look more respectable with help from Jordan Hawkins, Andre Jackson Jr., and Tristen Newton. Joey Calcaterra is a potential x-factor, as he’s emerged from an end-of-bench option and become a key shooter in the Huskies’ last three games.
Sanogo will have a big impact near the basket thanks to his size, but this game will likely come down to how his supporting cast fares. Villanova’s three-point defense is middle-of-the-pack (33.9%), though it dominated Creighton last weekend. All of UConn’s shooters are pretty volatile, which makes them a bit tougher to trust on the road.