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Non-conference action sees the UConn Huskies visit former Big East rival Villanova this afternoon in an anticipated mid-season matchup.
Nationally ranked Villanova enters today’s throwback clash standing #14 overall at 13-3 overall (3-1 conference). While winning nine of ten, the Wildcats have taken down then top-ranked Kansas, Xavier, Creighton, Georgetown and DePaul to solidify their status among college basketball’s best. Meanwhile, American Athletic representative UConn has had an up-and-down campaign defeating Florida, Miami, Buffalo and Tulane while dropping contests vs. Xavier, St. Joe’s, Indiana, and most recently, Wichita State. Those fluctuations see the Huskies add a 10-6 overall record (1-2 conference).
Villanova rates #26 and UConn #80 in KenPom’s latest rankings. Last season, the Wildcats defeated UConn 81-58.
UConn vies for upset win to kickstart season’s second halfOne year after a mediocre 16-17 finish, UConn has lost traction following 9-3 non-conference success. The Huskies have dropped three of four to rank among the AAC’s bottom-rung. Those struggles stem from poor defensive execution which sees the Huskies allow 73 ppg vs. conference opposition. That figure is a considerable downturn from the 64.8 ppg allowed in total by Dan Hurley’s men.
Nationally ranked Wichita State recently exploited UConn’s lax boundaries to highlight an 89-86 overtime victory. That night, the once-beaten Shockers netted 42-31 while holding the Huskies to five of 19 from deep. In total, led by Christian Vital’s 14.3 ppg, the Huskies average 72.2 points. Dan Hurley’s men shoot 41-30 total and allow 39-30: although, the latter numbers have risen during conference play.
UConn is 0-2 in true road games this season.
Villanova looks for tenth win in eleven outings as team regains footingA decorated program sporting two national titles last decade, Villanova again presents competitive issues most nights for opposing schools. The Wildcats’ 9-1 run after a 5-2 start elicits shades of recent dominance as Jay Wright’s men make themselves comfortable among Big East play. Over their past five games Villanova has held opponents to 66 ppg -just a shade better than their overall 67.6 points allowed.
ICYMI: A new episode of Talking Villanova Basketball with @VUCoachJWright Podcast presented by @hartfordfunds featuring junior captains Collin Gillespie & Jermaine Samuels is now available #NovaNation!— Villanova Athletics (@NovaAthletics) January 16, 2020
🎧 Listen & subscribe: https://t.co/7L5KOBnC44 / https://t.co/DFSKJV2YsE pic.twitter.com/BCxt8lfX1H
Offensively, led by Saddiq Bey (15.4) and Collin Gillespie (15.1), the Wildcats boast a top-heavy roster featuring seven top-100 national recruits. Gillespie’s clutch recent performance earned Villanova an impressive overtime win vs. DePaul to keep the group’s momentum strong. Behind controlled pace, the Wildcats add 45-34 shooting and allow 44-32.
Villanova stands 9-0 this year from home.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
With momentum and remnants of championship experience in their corner, Villanova looms as a heavy home favorite today vs. longtime rival UConn. Meanwhile, the Huskies are trending in the opposite direction following a bumpy conference start. Villanova’s starting lineup, and timely reserve contributions, place the Wildcats in excellent position to claim another win this afternoon in non-conference action. Behind controlled pace, take Villanova with the win.
Full-Game Total Pick
While Connecticut plays a faster pace, Villanova, on its home floor, will look to slow the contest. However, given the Huskies’ recent defensive lapses combined with the Wildcats’ sold, but unspectacular defensive pressure, I’ll take the Over for today’s contest. A familiarity exists between these schools which gives both sides greater insight as to how to exploit the others’ weaknesses. Look for that factor to play a large role today in the total going Over.