No. 15 Villanova Wildcats vs No. 18 Marquette Golden Eagles
Line: Villanova -5
Where: Finneran Pavilion
When: Wednesday, 2/12, at 8:30 p.m. ET
No. 18 Marquette will take its three-game winning streak into one of the toughest environments in college basketball tonight when the Golden Eagles face No. 15 Villanova.
BetOnline opened Jay Wright’s team as a 4.5-point home favorites, but the number quickly dropped to -4 early Tuesday evening. The total was sent out at 145.5 points.
As of early this morning, though, the Wildcats were favored by five with a total of 144. The Golden Eagles were +180 on the money line.
The Wildcats have won 18 of their last 20 home games at Finneran Pavilion, including their last seven against Marquette.
But on Jan. 4 in Milwaukee, the Golden Eagles beat Villanova 71-60 as 1.5-point home underdogs. The 131.5 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 151.5-point total. Markus Howard scored 29 points to lead the way.
Marquette had fewer fouls and turnovers, while recording more blocks, free throws and steals in the victory.
Howard is a household name in college basketball, leading the nation with 27.4 points per game. The senior guard has surpassed 30 points in 10 games this season, including a 51-point outburst against USC at the end of November.
The Golden Eagles have now covered the spread in six of their last seven games and are 15-8 ATS overall. Senior wing Sacar Anim and junior guard Koby McEwen are also in double figures, with Anim scoring 13.0 PPG and McEwen adding 10.6 PPG.
Sophomore forward Brendan Bailey is the leading rebounder with 5.7 boards per contest. Marquette likes to get up and down the court, ranking No. 51 in KenPom’s adjusted tempo ratings. The Golden Eagles are No. 16 in adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 60 in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Villanova has found itself in a rut after climbing to No. 10 in the polls. The Wildcats have dropped three games in a row, falling to Creighton, Butler and Seton Hall. They are 10-11-2 ATS this season and have limped to 0-2-1 ATS record during their current three-game skid.
Sophomore forward Saddiq Bey and junior guard Collin Gillespie are the leaders on a team that does not have any scholarship seniors. Bey is scoring 15.9 PPG and is grabbing 5.1 RPG while shooting 47.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Gillespie is adding 15.7 points and a team-high 4.6 assists. Freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is nearly averaging a double-double, scoring 10.8 points and grabbing 9.6 RPG.
The Wildcats play a much slower brand of basketball than Marquette, coming in at No. 277 in adjusted tempo. They rank one spot higher in offensive efficiency (15), while ranking 11 spots lower in defensive efficiency (71).
They tend to play low-scoring games, with four of their last five games going ‘under’ the number. Marquette has seen 11 of its last 15 go ‘over’ the total.
Things tend to balance out when the Wildcats and Golden Eagles go head-to-head, with six of the last 10 going ‘over.’
The Pick: Villanova -5
This is not a fade of Howard and Marquette, but it is a play on Wright and Villanova. The Wildcats are in desperate need of a win after losing three games in a row. If they play like they have during that losing skid, this will be another tally in the loss column.
However, Villanova should be re-focused as it plays its second home game in a row. The Wildcats have not dropped three consecutive home games since the 2011-12 season. Wright should have a better defensive game plan for Marquette’s role players in the second meeting of the year. The Golden Eagles won that first matchup by making 26 free throws compared to Villanova’s three. Wright’s team will have the advantage tonight.