Villanova Wildcats vs. Duke Blue Devils Preview and Pick

Villanova Wildcats (28-7) +2.5, 148 O/U vs. Duke Blue Devils (30-6)
-2.5, 148 O/U, TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, Mass., Thursday, March
26, East Region Sweet 16, 10:07 PM EST, CBS

by Badger of

The final game on Thursday nights Sweet 16 schedule could burn down the house at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, as the No. 3-seeded
Villanova Wildcats will look to continue their stellar late-season
play versus the team everyone loves to hate, the No. 2-seeded Duke
Blue Devils.

The Wildcats played a near flawless game and looked virtually
unstoppable in their 89-69 thrashing of UCLA Sunday in Miami.
Villanovas defense caused 20 turnovers as they put the clamps on the
Bruins offense, helping them earn their fifth win in their last six
games with their only loss coming at the hands of Louisville in the
final of the Big East Conference tournament.

Duke is coming off of a scrappy, 74-69 victory over Texas in their
second round game just down the road in Greensboro, N.C. After
failing to reach the Sweet 16 the past two seasons, head coach Mike
Krzyzewski has his Blue Devils on the doorstep of the Elite 8 again
for the first time since 2006.

Oddsmakers share the opinion that this game could very well be the
best game out of the eight Sweet 16 matchups, as they opened the game
with Duke as slim 3-point favorites. Early bettors must have the
Villanova game on Sunday fresh on their minds, as action at the
window in favor of the wildcats has caused the number to drop to 2.5-
points or even 2-points in favor of Duke at most offshore sportsbooks.

The over/under total opened at 148.5 and has held firm for the most part at the books in Las Vegas, although most of the offshore books
have lowered the total down a half-point to 148. The moneyline is
also a close wager, as the early numbers show Duke as -140 favorites
and Villanova as +120 underdogs.

The old clich says that guard play can win games in the NCAA tournament. Well, this game will feature enough guards to win several NCAA tournaments, although most of them are tall enough to be
considered swingmen.

Villanovas offense is run through point guard Scottie Reynolds, who
leads the backcourt with a 15.1 points per game average, but he is
just one of five guards/guard-forwards that the Wildcats rely on to
control the tempo of the game. Dwayne Anderson and Reggie Redding are
long, athletic guards that feature versatile, all-around games, while
Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes come off the Wildcat bench without the
team missing a beat.

Villanova will need all of those bodies to be on top of their game Thursday, as the Blue Devils also feature a lineup full of versatile
guard/forward types that are equally skilled at slashing to the hole
as they are at chucking up 3-pointers. Gerald Henderson (16.8 ppg)
and Kyle Singler (16.5) are the top two threats on offense for Duke,
but its the play of new point guard Jon Scheyer that keys the Blue
Devils attack. Scheyer has been credited with sparking the Duke
offense a little over a month ago when Coach K put him on the point
and moved Greg Paulus to the bench.

It should come as no surprise that with so many similar players on the floor for both teams, that their season-long averages are
virtually the same as well. Villanova averaged 77.0 points per game,
Duke averaged 78.1. Villanova allowed 67.1 points for the opponent,
Duke allowed 65.6. And both teams are strong from the charity stripe
as well, with Villanovas 74.6 percent average just slightly better
than Dukes 72.8 percent.

The two teams last met on the court in November of 2000, so head-to-head history will not help bettors decide which side to take in this
game. For the record, Duke won the game, 98-85, but Villanova covered
as large 19-point underdogs.

Neither team will enter the game Thursday with momentum on their side
as far as betting goes. Duke ended the year 17-17-1 ATS, but has
only covered the spread in three of their last seven games. The Blue
Devils did cover in their opening round victory over Binghamton (as
23.5-point faves), but only but the half-point hook.

Villanova has been playing well on the court, but it hasnt
translated to the window for bettors. The Wildcats were 17-14 ATS on
the year in the tough Big East Conference, but they are just 4-6 ATS
in their last 10 games and thats including the strong cover over
UCLA as 2.5-point favorites on Sunday.

Neither team has done particularly well ATS historically either, as
Duke is just 2-8-1 ATS versus Big East teams in their last 10 tries,
while Villanova has troubles on Thursday nights to the tune of a 1-8
ATS record in their last nine tries.

If youre a fan of betting trends, then youll probably be wagering
on the under in this game. The under is 7-2 in Dukes last nine games
versus a Big East foe, while the under is also 8-2 in Villanovas
last 10 non-conference games. Ironically though, both teams have gone
over the total in both games of the 2009 tourney so far.

Badgers Pick: The wildcard in this game is Villanova forward Dante
Cunningham. Cunningham is the only back-to-the-basket player on the
floor, and at 16.3 points per game, Im not sure the Blue Devils have
anyone on the roster to matchup with him. In a coin-flip, Im going
with Cunningham and the Wildcats here. Take Villanova plus the 2.5-