Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Villanova Wildcats Pick
Marquette Golden Eagles (24-3 SU, 16-11 ATS) vs. Villanova Wildcats (21-6 SU, 13-12-1 ATS)
When: Wednesday, February 27, 2019 – 9 p.m. ET
Where: Fineran Pavilion, Villanova, Pa.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MARQ -4.5/NOVA +4.5
Total: O/U 146.5
Last Time Out: Marquette hammered Providence 76-58; Villanova lost 66-54 to Xavier.
Scouting the Golden Eagles:
To say these teams are going in different directions is a major understatement. While Villanova has sputtered, Marquette has caught fire. The Golden Eagles have won four straight, including their 66-65 win over the Wildcats in Milwaukee, and the biggest reason has been their shooting. Marquette has shot 49 percent or better in each of their past four wins, and Villanova was the only game that was within double digits. Granted, the wins were over Providence, Butler and DePaul, but Marquette has dominated the Big East all season, with the exception of St. John’s. The Red Storm are the only team in the league to get the better of Marquette, which is why the Golden Eagles are set up to end Villanova’s reign as kings of the Big East and win the league title. With a win at Villanova, they’ll do exactly that, as they’d clinch no worse than a tie and would own the tiebreaker based on a season sweep.
Scouting the Wildcats:
Villanova is a three-legged stool on offense, and when all three legs of Eric Paschall, Phil Booth and Colin Gillespie are getting their jobs done, the Wildcats are difficult to beat. But lately, the legs aren’t functioning because the Wildcats aren’t getting their shots to drop. Against Xavier, the bottom really dropped out for Villanova when it shot just 33.9 percent from the floor and left Cincinnati with its first three-game losing streak in the Big East since the league split off from the American in 2013. Bottom line: when Booth and Gillespie shoot a combined 8-for-24 from the floor, the Wildcats aren’t going to beat a lot of teams.
Markus Howard. The last time the teams met, Villanova actually did an excellent job on the rest of the Golden Eagles, holding them to just 28 points in the contest. The problem is that Howard did what he’s done for most of the year, lighting up Villanova for 38. Like Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s, Howard is the type of player who can take over the game and put a team on his back, and the Wildcats have to prevent that from recurring. However, Villanova can’t go too heavy on Howard, as they found out the hard way when faced with the problem of Ponds. The Wildcats shut down the St. John’s star by holding him to 11 points, but lost anyway because LJ Figueroa and Mustapha Heron combined for 41. Editor’s note, Howard would look great in Celtic’s green. Danny Ainge, if you are reading this before betting Virginia, take a look at this kid!
Against Marquette, Villanova has to do one of two things: shut down Howard and do a good enough job on Sam Hauser and Sacar Anim to keep them from filling the void, or permit Howard his average while focusing on Hauser and friends. If Howard flirts with 40 again, or Hauser and Anim combine for 40, this isn’t going to work for Villanova.
Marquette will Cover if:
The Golden Eagles can match their defense to their offense. Marquette has had no trouble whatsoever scoring, but it hasn’t always been the greatest at stopping opponents. With Villanova struggling badly on offense, any opening could be a major salve for the Wildcats’ offense, and the last thing that Marquette needs is for Villanova to get some confidence and get the attack going again. The Golden Eagles need to ensure the shots don’t start dropping again.
Villanova will Cover if:
The Wildcats either find another scorer or fix what ails their three-legged stool. Villanova has always been a flawed team that needs all aspects of the offense working in order to get a result, and lately, that has not come close to happening. The Wildcats don’t defend well enough to pick up the slack when the offense doesn’t get the job done, making it a simple proposition for Villanova: start hitting some shots or watch the losing streak continue.
Who else wants $60 of FREE member picks & predictions?
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Unlike the Virginia game sportsbooks do not expect this game to be a double digit blowout. Villanova has had an amazing run over the past three years. With two national titles and three No. 1 seeds to their name over the past three campaigns, you’ve got to respect what the Wildcats have done. But this Villanova team just isn’t the same as what Jay Wright has had for the past three seasons. The Wildcats are still a good team, but their shooting has masked a lot of problems for them this season. When they aren’t hitting, they’re easy to beat.
In contrast, Marquette appears to be a team on the rise. The Golden Eagles are doing everything well and have a nice balance of scorers to complement Howard’s contributions. Plus, they’ve shown they can win even when Howard has a bad night — something Villanova can’t say about any of its top scorers.
Marquette barely escaped at home in the first meeting, but Villanova has gone completely in the wrong direction since that contest, and I don’t see them fixing things against the Big East’s best team. I’m taking the Golden Eagles for the cover on the road.
Final Score Prediction: UVA Cavaliers 61 – Louisville Cardinals 53