Villanova Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Villanova Wildcats (14-1 SU, 10-4 ATS) vs. Louisville Cardinals (12-4 SU, 5-6 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Monday, January 11, 2009, Freedom Hall, Louisville, Ky. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Villanova +3/Louisville -3
Over/Under: 155

A pair of 3-0 Big East teams go at it on Monday as the Louisville Cardinals host the Villanova Wildcats at Freedom Hall.

Villanova is 14-1 overall with quality non-conference wins over Dayton, Ole Miss and Maryland. Its only loss came at Temple and its three conference victories came over Marquette twice and DePaul. The Wildcats have had five road games thus far. Their wins over Maryland, St. Joseph’s and Fordham each came by at least eight points. They lost at Temple 75-65 and won 74-72 at Marquette in their last road game. Their last game was a 78-76 home win over Marquette on Saturday in which the Wildcats blew a rather large lead but still hung on for a close victory.

In their most recent win over Marquette, the Wildcats had all five starters score in double figures. Corey Stokes led the way with 16 points, Scottie Reynolds had 15, Corey Fisher and Antonio Pena each had 11, and Reggie Redding had 10. The ‘Cats shot 57 percent from the field, 7-for-15 from the 3-point line, and 15-for-19 from the free throw line. They allowed Marquette to make 11 3-pointers, which was the primary reason the Golden Eagles were able to get back in the game.

Louisville may be 3-0 in conference play, but those three wins came over St. John’s, South Florida and Providence, three of the lower teams in the Big East. The only decent win for the Cardinals in non-conference play came over Arkansas and Western Kentucky, both by more than 25 points. But they’ve also lost games to Charlotte and Western Carolina at home and UNLV and Kentucky on the road. Their last game was a 75-68 win at home over St. John’s on Saturday.

In the win over St. John’s, Jared Swopshire stepped up with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting (2-for-4 3-pointers), Jerry Smith had 15 points (12 of which came on free throws), Preston Knowles had 12 points, and Samardo Samuels had nine points and 11 rebounds. The Cardinals out-rebounded the Red Storm by 11 and only turned the ball over 11 times. They really won the game at the free throw line, where they shot 20-for-30, more than double the amount of attempts (14) the Red Storm had.

Louisville’s biggest strength is its ability to create turnovers, forcing 17.3 per game while committing 14.3 per game. Villanova is committing 13.1 turnovers per game and forcing 16.3 per game. Villanova’s biggest strength is its 3-point shooting, as the ‘Cats are hitting eight 3-pointers per game and 37.2 of their attempts. Both of these teams are very guard-oriented and do a good job of getting their guards to help out on the boards. Samuels, arguably the best big man in this matchup, is leading the Cardinals in scoring and rebounding this season (15.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg), so he could be the key to victory for Louisville.

Villanova is 4-1 ATS in its last five games and a very good 10-4 ATS overall this season. The over is 8-1 in Nova’s last nine games overall and 4-1 in its last five road games. The under is 4-1 in Nova’s last five games as a road underdog and 25-9-1 in its last 35 games as an underdog. The over is 4-0 in Louisville’s last four games following an ATS loss and 8-1 in its last nine games as a favorite. The over is 8-2 in Louisville’s last 10 games overall. The total has gone under in each of the last four meetings between these teams.

Villanova is 0-5 ATS in its last five games against Louisville. The last time the two teams met was in the Big East tournament semifinals in March when Louisville came away with a 69-55 win at Madison Square Garden.

Ryno’s Pick: Louisville is enjoying much success this season, but really the ‘Cats haven’t gotten many exceptional victories yet. Since a couple nice neutral court victories early in the season, they’ve only won at a struggling Maryland team and twice by two points over Marquette. Louisville hasn’t had much success this season either and all of its conference wins thus far are over weak opponents. Louisville desperately needs this win for its resume. The Cardinals are 5-0 ATS in their last five games against Villanova and this is a case of an unranked favorite over a ranked opponent. Take Louisville -3.