Featured Video from Scott Reichel
The Saint Mary’s Gaels will be looking for their 23rd win of the season when the team travels to the XL Center to take on the Villanova Wildcats. Saint Mary’s enters this game with a 22-11 record after beating Gonzaga in its last game.
Yesterday – Travel ✅
Today – Practice 🔜
Tomorrow – Play 🏀 pic.twitter.com/vy6PIsX1ty
— Saint Mary's Hoops (@saintmaryshoops) March 20, 2019
Meanwhile, Villanova is 25-9 this season after beating Seton Hall in its last game. Now, both teams will be looking to improve on their respective records in this one.
Saint Mary’s Wins Seven Of Last Eight
This season, Saint Mary’s looked to compete in the WCC and to potentially get back to the NCAA tournament after missing it last year. So far this season, the team has accomplished that feat as it won 22 of its first 33 games. In addition, the team is on fire as it has won seven of its last eight games including a win in the conference tournament championship game against Gonzaga in its last game. In that game, Saint Mary’s defense was amazing as the team allowed just 47 points on less than 12% shooting from the three-point line. If Saint Mary’s plans on winning this game, its defense will have to continue playing well.
The Saint Mary’s Gaels are led by junior guard Jordan Ford who was solid last season. Last season, he averaged 11.1 points per game along with 2.7 rebounds. This season, he has played even better as he is currently leading the team with 21.3 points per game along with 2.8 rebounds. Ford has blossomed into a star this season and he was a major reason why the team won its conference tournament as he scored a team-high 17 points in the team’s last game.
Coach Bennett believes that the team will need to overcome its initial nerves as soon as possible for the team to be successful in this tournament.
“When you go in the NCAA Tournament, anybody you come up against is pretty good and pretty confident and been on a run of some sort. So you have to get your team to kind of relax. They’re obviously going to be nervous. But you can’t be nervous long. You have to perform,” Bennett said.
Villanova Continues To Roll
This season, Villanova looked to duplicate last year’s success by winning consecutive championships. So far this season, Villanova has underachieved but is still currently 25-9. However, the team only got a six-seed in the NCAA tournament due to several slumps in the middle of the season. Luckily for Villanova, the team is starting to click at the right time as it has won five of its last six games and even won its conference tournament after beating Seton Hall in the championship game. Villanova has several pieces from last year’s national championship team and that experience could be the difference in this game.
The Villanova Wildcats are led by senior guard Phil Booth who will look to lead the team to another championship. Last season, Booth averaged 10.0 points per game along with 2.9 assists. He also managed to shoot 80% from the foul line and over 44% from the floor which was impressive. However, Booth has exploded this season with more minutes as he is currently averaging 18.6 points per game along with 3.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
Coach Wright believes that the team’s veteran players have done a great job getting the younger guys ready for this March Madness experience.
“We’ve relied on them all year for every situation. I think the thing about the sophomores, although they didn’t play a lot, seeing all of this and going through all this, they’ve seen it. I think that helps. But Phil and Eric, just when we leave the locker room here, I’ll say, make sure the guys are straight, they know what we’re doing here,” Wright said.
- Under is 5-1 in Wildcats last 6 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Under is 10-2-1 in Wildcats last 13 non-conference games.
- Under is 6-1 in Gaels last 7 NCAA Tournament games.
- Under is 39-13-2 in Gaels last 54 Thursday games.
- Under is 36-13-2 in Gaels last 51 games following a straight up win.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Villanova finally found its rhythm again late in the season and will look to go on another March Madness run. Villanova has the ability to win in a variety of ways due to its quality offense and its elite defense. The team also has the experience on its roster which should allow the Wildcats to win this contest. St. Mary’s conference was a large reason why the team was able to win 22 games this season and I think that Villanova is the better overall team which will show on Thursday. Give me the favorite in this one as a result.
Prediction: Villanova -5
Full-Game Total Pick
Both teams like to slow the pace of play down and to play offense primarily in the halfcourt. I expect both teams to struggle offensively as both teams will focus on limiting transition baskets and forcing each other into long possessions. I think that Saint Mary’s will lean on the three point ball again and I think that Villanova’s defense is good enough to limit the Gaels to less than 60 points. This game should land in the low-120s so I like the under a lot in this game.
Prediction: Under 130.5