No. 18 UConn Huskies vs. No. 20 Providence Friars
Line: UConn -7
Where: Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut
When: Wednesday, 2/22 at 6:30 p.m. ET
No. 20 Providence will try to remain in contention atop the Big East standings when it eyes a season sweep over No. 18 UConn on Wednesday night.
The Friars were tied with No. 16 Xavier and No. 19 Creighton for second place in the conference heading into Tuesday’s slate (this story was filed prior to those games), as all three teams were sitting one game back of No. 10 Marquette. UConn might be the second-highest ranked team in the Big East, but it is four games back in fifth place.
Providence picked up a 73-61 win as a 5.5-point home underdog in the first meeting between these teams in a game that went ‘under’ the total of 142.5. Neither team shot well that night, with the Friars knocking down 36.7% of their attempts and UConn shooting a shade worse at 36.5%.
Oddsmakers expect UConn to split the season series on Wednesday, as offshore sportsbook BetOnline opened the Huskies as 7.5-point favorites on Tuesday afternoon. Despite the first game going ‘under’ the number, Wednesday’s total opened even higher at 144. As of late this morning, most spots had adjusted to UConn -7 with a total of 142.
These teams have now gone ‘under’ in four of their last five head-to-head meetings.
Providence jumped four spots in the AP poll after beating then-No. 18 Creighton and Villanova last week, improving to 8-0 at home in league play. Ed Croswell scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a double-double effort against the Wildcats on Saturday, while Bryce Hopkins had 19 points and 12 rebounds en route to his second Big East Player of the Week award this season.
“Everybody speculated that we weren’t the team we wanted to be in November and December, but (the team improved) with patience, a little bit of chemistry and a little bit of lucky,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “Everybody still thinks we’re lucky, but you know, I’d rather be lucky than good.”
The betting market and metrics are both in agreement with the “luck” aspect of this Providence team, as the Friars have now covered the spread at a ridiculous 15-4 clip in their last 19 games. They are outside the top 115 in 2-point percentage (51.6), 3-point percentage (34.9) and turnover rate.
Their strength offensively has been on the offensive glass, where they rank No. 14. They had a slight edge on the boards (41-39) in the first meeting with UConn, although the Huskies had six more offensive rebounds.
“Providence is one of the most physical teams in the country,” UConn coach Danny Hurley said. “They put enormous pressure on you with Hopkins and their centers and (Devin) Carter. These guys take it to you. We have another tough-man competition on Wednesday.”
UConn knows all about attacking the glass, as it leads the country in offensive rebounding percentage. The Huskies held a 14-7 edge on the offensive glass in their 64-55 win over Seton Hall on Saturday, using a 14-0 run in the second half to pull away. Jordan Hawkins scored 20 points, while Andre Jackson Jr. added a career-high 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
They have now won four of their last five games, beating No. 10 Marquette by 15 points two weeks ago. Junior forward Adama Sanogo leads UConn with 16.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, while Hawkins is adding 16.4 points and 4.0 boards. Senior guard Tristen Newton is also in double figures with 10.0 points, 4.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds.
UConn is 5-10 against the spread in its last 15 games, but it has gone 18-2 straight up in its last 20 home games and is 4-1 ATS in its last five home games against Providence. The Friars are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 conference games and are 1-4 in their last five road games.
The pick: Providence +7.5 (South Point)
The metrics are going to keep disagreeing here, but that has led to plenty of losing tickets for people who have faded Providence and backed UConn in conference play. Providence has gone a red-hot 15-4 ATS in its last 19 games, using a strong presence on the offensive glass to wear teams down. UConn might have the size the handle the Friars in the paint, but that was not on display when the Huskies lost by double digits in the first meeting between these teams. This is a pretty straightforward opportunity to back a profitable team while fading an overvalued team, regardless of what their respective ceilings might be.