Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Villanova Wildcats Preview and Pick

Marquette Golden Eagles (20-6), -1.5, o/u 142.5 @ Villanova Wildcats (17-9), +1.5, o/u 142.5, Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, Penn., Monday, 7 p.m. Eastern
by Oracle of

If Bracket Buster weekend didn’t give college basketball fans enough excitement and drama this past weekend, the game Monday night between 24th ranked Marquette and Villanova will surely top it all off.

These two teams will meet in this Big East clash for the first and only time this season, with Monday night’s contest in Philadelphia airing on ESPN.

These two teams have taken somewhat of a similar path this season. Both teams were ranked very high at one point during the year, but the Wildcats have been completely knocked out of the Top 25, while Marquette is barely holding on to its 24th ranking. Everyone knows, though, about the quality of teams and depth in the Big East.

Villanova looked poised to make a run at the Big East title, starting the year with a 13-3 overall mark. But they hit a brick wall where it lost five straight games in a two-week span all Big East matchups.

They have rebounded nicely, however, winning three straight, including a huge 67-65 upset win over 13th ranked Connecticut on Saturday. The win ended the Huskies 10 game winning streak, but more importantly their name resurfaced as a possible at-large team for the NCAA Tournament. They have the opportunity on Monday night to defeat their second straight ranked opponent, which would really put them into the conversation of a tourney team.

This match up should be a fun one, with both teams possessing incredible athleticism all over the court. Villanova looks for Scottie Reynolds to lead the way. The guard averages over 16 points per contest and always seems to have the ball in his hands during a clutch situation. He led the Wildcats with 18 points in their upset win over UConn, and also sealed the deal with a full court pass to Dante Cunningham in the waning seconds of the game. Speaking of Cunningham, he gives teams fits. He is a sleek 6-feet 9-inches tall, but can slash like a guard and post up. Marquette may not have anyone to match up with his size and athleticism.

Marquette has the advantage on offense, though, mainly because Villanova’s defense is porous. The Wildcat’s give up 69.2 points per game (187th in the nation). Combine that with a potent Marquette scoring attack, it smells like there will be a surplus of points scored in this contest. The Golden Eagles average nearly 77 points per game and have three players average at least 13 points, and a fourth, Wesley Matthews, at 11 points per contest. Marquette uses its deep bench to get an edge on its opponents, and there is a tendency for them to have a different person step up big for them each game, whether it’s Lazar Hayward (13.4 points, 6.2 rebounds), Jerel McNeal (13.1 points, 2.2 steals) or Dominic James (13.1 points, 4.5 assists).

Marquette will come at Villanova from all angles in this one, using pressure defense and their fast break attack. The Wildcats do have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Golden Eagles.

Marquette has faired well ATS this year with an overall mark of 12-9. Even more impressive is their mark ATS on the road, though (7-3). They also have an 8-7 ATS in Big East Play.

Villanova is 9-14 ATS, but is just 3-8 when they play at the Wachovia Center.

The Golden Eagles have a bunch of trends in their favor that bettors should keep an eye on, too. They’re 5-0 over ATS in their past five games and 4-0 on the road. They have also covered the spread in their past five Big East Games.

Villanova is coming off an emotional win against Connecticut on Saturday and bettors don’t really know what Wildcat team is going to show up night in and night out. Marquette is starting to find a groove and the odds are with them in covering the spread.

If bettors are scared away from the line, the game should be fairly high scoring, even though Marquette has a pretty solid defense. There are mixed signals for the over/under, however, with the under coming in the 9 of the last 11 home games for Villanova. For Marquette, the over has a 21-10 mark over its past 31 Big East games.

Either way it will be an entertaining watch. It’s hard to ignore the trend of Villanova not covering at home while Marquette does cover on the road.

Oracle’s Pick: Villanova +1.5.