Villanova Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Pick

No. 10 Villanova Wildcats (26-6), +4.5, o/u 141.5 vs. No. 5 Louisville (26-5), -4.5, o/u 141.5, Madison Square Garden, New York, Friday, 7 p.m. Eastern

By Oracle of

Theres a reason why the Big East is known as the toughest conference in the entire nation.

Villanova and Louisville are two of four teams that are ranked in the Top 10 in the country, and they will square off in the Big East semifinal match up on Friday night at The Garden.

Heading into the contest, experts were saying that the Cardinals would
have to win the Big East tourney to earn a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
However, an Oklahoma loss in the Big 12 tourney has opened some doors for
Louisville, which would mean 3 Big East teams may potentially earn the top
4 seeds. Whatever the case, theyll need to get by the pesky Wildcats if
they want any shot at that No. 1 seed.

Villanova has some momentum on its side. They beat an upset-minded Marquette team at the buzzer, 76-75, on Thursday thanks to Dwayne Andersons buzzer beating lay-up. Theyve also won 6 of their last 7 games while averaging over 83 points in their last three wins.

Online Sportsbooks have first-seeded Louisville, who went 16-2 to take the Big East Conference title, as a 4.5-point favorite to open up. The over/under also opened at 141.5.

The Cardinals have a nice 19-12 record ATS overall on the year. Villanovas mark isnt too shabby either ATS at 16-12.

This will be the second match up of the year between the two squads. The two teams met in early January when they were both struggling to find their identities.

The Cardinals came out a 61-60 winner in the contest. Earl Clark, who had 24 points and 10 boards in a thrashing of Providence on Thursday, had 16 and 11 in their one-point win over Nova.

The Louisville defense held the Wildcats to 37.7% shooting in the game
and maybe more importantly, limited guard Scottie Reynolds to just 11 points
and four turnovers.

Reynolds scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half against Marquette yesterday, helping his team to a 16-point halftime lead. He is the quarterback on the floor, as he averages 15.9 points, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Itll be hard to shut down Reynolds for a second time.

The key to Novas success on Friday may lie in Villanovas version of The Two Coreys. Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes help take the pressure off Reynolds and can drain it from distance. Stokes averages 9.9 points while Fisher is at 10.8 on the year. They combined for just 12 points on 3-for-10 shooting in the loss to Louisville.

Villanova is going to have to have an answer for Clark and up-and-coming star Samardo Samuels, who has delivered for Louisville in the latter half of the season. While the 6-foot 9-inch Clark averages 14 points and 8.8 boards per game, the 6-8 Samuels is putting in 12.1 points while shooting nearly 60% on the year.

Novas Dante Cunningham will man up on Clark, but theyll have to find someone to stop Samuels as well.

The Wildcats have had a tough time as of late covering the spread, going 0-4 in the last four games heads up against Louisville.

However, they cover well against teams with a winning percentage of .600 or above, going 9-2 ATS in their last 11.

Louisville is 4-1 ATS after covering in their previous game, which they easily did in their beat down of Providence yesterday.

The under is also a big trend for Louisville on neutral ground, as its 5-1-1 in the last seven games.

Villanova has won five games in a row straight up against ranked opponents. Theyre also 5-4 straight up in their last nine meetings with Top 5 teams.

The Cats are also looking to make their first Big East championship game since 1997, while Louisville is searching for its first since joining the conference in 2005.

Oracles Pick: Louisville has been hot lately, but were going with a Villanova team who seems to show up big when they play the tough opponents. Theyll cover and maybe even spoil a chance for Louisvilles No. 1 seed for The Dance with a straight up win!