Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Villanova Wildcats Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-5 SU, 7-6-1 ATS) vs. Villanova Wildcats (18-1 SU, 14-4 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, January 27, 2009, Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, Pa. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Notre Dame +11/Villanova -11
Over/Under: 165

Now that Kentucky lost to South Carolina on Monday, Villanova has an opportunity to take over as the No. 1 team in the country if Kansas were to lose this week. Nova’s first of two games this week in pursuit of that No. 1 spot is at the Wachovia Center on Wednesday night against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Villanova is currently undefeated in the Big East at 7-0 and 18-1 overall. The Wildcats have defeated Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette twice, DePaul, Rutgers and St. John’s in the conference. Their lone loss this season was a 75-65 loss at Temple on December 13. They are 8-0 at home this season in games played either at the Wachovia Center or the Pavilion.

Villanova’s last game was an 81-71 win at St. John’s on Saturday. The ‘Cats trailed by a point, 38-37, at the half before running away with it in the second half. As usual, Scottie Reynolds led the team in scoring with 19 points. Corey Fisher had 18 points and freshman Maalik Wayns added 16 points. The ‘Cats shot 50 percent from the field and 21-for-27 from the free throw line. They were just 4-for-14 on 3-point attempts and turned the ball over 19 times.

Notre Dame desperately needs a win like this against a top team like Villanova. The Irish have a quality home win over West Virginia, but they don’t really have any other quality wins. A quality road win is essential if they want to get an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. A win at Villanova would neutralize a bad loss earlier this season at home to Loyola Marymount.

The Irish are 1-2 on the road in Big East play with a one-point win at South Florida, a two-point loss at Cincinnati, and a 12-point loss at UConn. They had one non-conference road game, a 12-point win at Saint Louis.

In their last game, the Irish won 87-77 at home over DePaul on Saturday. Luke Harangody, who has been carrying Notre Dame this season and for the past three seasons, had 24 points and 11 rebounds, right around his 24.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game average. Ben Hansbrough had 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. But Tim Abromaitis was the story for the Irish, scoring 30 points. He has been a pleasant surprise all season long, averaging 16.7 points per game and giving Harangody a lot of help on the offensive end. Abromaitis is shooting 49.6 percent on 3-pointers, has scored in double figures in all but two games this season, and also scored 26 points two games ago in a loss to Syracuse. Abromaitis is averaging 18 points per game at home but only 11.5 per game on the road.

The most incredible statistic in the win over DePaul was that the Irish only committed two turnovers in the entire game. They had 22 assists, good enough for an 11-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as a team, which is absolutely ridiculous. They didn’t even commit a turnover for the first 29:28 of the game. They only forced five turnovers, but if they continue to not turn the ball over they will be tough to beat.

For the season, the Irish are averaging 10.3 turnovers per game while forcing 10.7 per game. The Wildcats are committing 13.8 turnovers per game and forcing 15.8 per game.

Notre Dame is 8-1-1 ATS in its last 10 games following an ATS loss, 4-10-1 ATS in its last 15 road games, and 3-8 ATS in its last 11 games as a road underdog. Villanova is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games as a home favorite. The Wildcats are 14-4 ATS this season, the second best ATS record of any college basketball team in the country and the best ATS record of any major conference team. Notre Dame is 5-2-1 ATS in its last eight games against Villanova. The underdog is 4-1-1 ATS in the last six meetings between these teams.

Ryno’s Pick: Villanova is playing as well as any team in the country right now. Notre Dame beat up a REALLY BAD DePaul team so don’t let that fool ya. Villanova wins this game by 15 or more.