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The Villanova Wildcats (12-4 / 3-0 Big East) will be looking to build on their perfect start to the new year, as they meet the Creighton Blue Jays (10-6 / 1-2 Big East) on Sunday afternoon in Omaha, NE.
The Wildcats carry a modest 4-game win streak into the high-noon ET conference game, as their recent win over St. Johns, 76 – 71, has Nova off to a 3 – 0 start to the 2019 Big East Conference portion of the campaign.
The last time we saw the Jays on the floor, some dude named Markus Howard had himself a night to remember. Howard’s 53-point effort in a 106 – 104 overtime game lifted Marquette over Creighton right here in Omaha, although 5 Jays’ players had double-digit scoring nights in the loss.
The Defending Champs Look To Build On A 3-0 Big East Run
The Wildcats are starting to more resemble the program that took home the big trophy a year ago, as 3 straight wins to open Big East Conference play is big after 4 non-conference losses to start the season.
Keep in mind, the Jay Wright-led Wildcats lost 4 games all of last season, and did the same the year before, so they have already reached the mark with a lot of basketball left to be played.
Heading into the weekend like…😼 pic.twitter.com/2Hrrlo0ji7
— Villanova MBB (@NovaMBB) January 11, 2019
Last time out against St. Johns, the Wildcats needed a late 3 from leading scorer Phil Booth to eventually get a 3rd straight Big East win, The senior guard found his way to a second-straight night with 23 points, lifting his season average up to 17.6 PPG in the 76 – 71 win.
Nova found themselves down by 5 at the half, 39 – 34, and St. Johns junior Shamorie Ponds opened up the lead to 8 with 10:30 to go. Ponds got fouled after making a 3-point basket, and he made his FT to give the Johnnies a 59 – 51 lead, but it obviously wasn’t enough.
Sophomore forward Jermaine Samuels came off the bench and found his way to 6 points and 4 boards, which seems harmless enough, right?
Well, Samuels went 4 for 4 down the stretch from the free throw line to keep the Wildcats lead as St. Johns was looking to foul someone. They picked the wrong guy, although he is only a 52.6% FT shooter, so the logic made sense, it just back fired on Chris Mullin.
Senior forward Eric Pachall led all Cats scorers with 25 points on the night, bringing his average up to 16.3 PPG. The Dobbs Ferry, NY native has gone over the 20-point mark 6 times this season, and has found his way to double-digits in the last 11 games.
The Jays Look To Rebound From Back-To-Back Big East Losses
Let’s just say that I was being a little cute when I called Markus Howard, ‘some dude’, because if you feel like opening the NCAA Scoring Leaderboard, that dude is the 3rd leading point-getter in the nation. The Jays had no answer for Howard in the loss, but Creighton didn’t exactly sit back and let him go bonkers and do nothing about it either.
We are talking about a game with 210 points that came down to a free-throw shooting contest as overtime played out, as 56 attempts from the charity stripe eventually decided the winner in the 106 -104 crazy Big East Conference game this past Wednesday night.
When you actually go over the stats from that game, it is amazing that Creighton lost with how well they shot on the night, but I guess someone has to lose, right?
The Jays shot 51.5% from distance (17/33), went 50.8% from the floor (33/65), and made 21 of their 26 free throws (80.8%) in a loss.
Sophomore guard Ty-Shon Alexander led all Blue Jay scorers on the night with 23 in 42 minutes, which brought his team-leading average up to 17.1 PPG. Alexander needed the good outing after only finding 9 points in the 84 – 69 loss to Butler the game previous.
Junior guard Davion Mintz went 8 of 14 from the floor en route to a 21-point outing, as his 9.6 PPG has him on the verge of becoming the 5th Jay to average double-digits.
What is even crazier, is that we are not seeing this kind of thing out of Creighton all of a sudden. This team ranks 3rd in the nation with their 51.5 FG%, and only 1 team in the land shoots better than their 44.1% from behind the arc.
Also of note, if you caught the Creighton / Marquette game, Damien Jefferson left with an ankle injury, and his status is questionable to go tonight. Jefferson comes off the bench and has added 9.6 PPG this year, although he has not scored over 7 points in the last 5 games and left the Marquette affair with only 1 point before exiting.
• Bluejays are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. Big East.
• Under is 15-5 in Bluejays last 20 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
• Under is 9-3 in Bluejays last 12 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600.
• Under is 9-2-1 in Wildcats last 12 games following a straight up win.
• Under is 15-5-2 in Wildcats last 22 overall.
• Wildcats are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 road games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
It may be just a point or so, but Jay Wright has owned Creighton over the years and I expect it to continue tonight in Omaha.
Nova is getting hot at the right time, and until someone puts their Big East Conference W-L number on the right to a 1, I invest in the Cats.
Nova +1.5 is the 3* Play on the Side.
Prediction: Villanova +1.5
Full-Game Total Pick
This one might be close, although we have seen that Jay Wright has turned his attention to the defensive side of the ball as Big East Conference play has arrived.
St. Johns barely scored 71 points on the Cats, and Nova has kept their last 4 opponents under their normal averages.
I see this as a 73 – 68 win for Jay Wright, with a road win and the Under hitting the board.
The Under 150.5 us the 3* Play on the Total.
Prediction: Under 150.5