Villanova Wildcats vs. Marquette Golden Eagles Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Villanova Wildcats (11-1 SU, 8-3 ATS) vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (9-4 SU, 4-3 ATS), 3:30 p.m. EST, Saturday, January 2, 2009, Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisc. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Villanova -1/Marquette +1
Over/Under: 154

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Villanova and Marquette will both try to get their first win in Big East play as the Wildcats and Golden Eagles battle it out Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center.

Villanova came into the season as a favorite in the Big East, while Marquette wasn’t expected to do much after losing its core players. The Wildcats have lived up to the hype thus far, only losing one game at rival Temple, while Marquette has exceeded expectations and looks like a strong upper-tier team in the Big East.

Marquette really shocked many by defeating Xavier and Michigan, both by double digits, in back-to-back days at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. The Golden Eagles had a double-digit lead in the championship game over Florida State, but the Seminoles battled back in the second half for a one-point victory. Since then, the Golden Eagles haven’t been able to pick up a quality win despite playing even with NC State and Wisconsin for almost the whole game. On Tuesday at West Virginia, they had the lead for most of the game against the undefeated Mountaineers before Da’Sean Butler hit a fade-away 20-foot jumper with two seconds left to win the game.

This is the second of a four-game span against ranked teams for Marquette, all of which are currently in the top 13. After the loss to West Virginia and Saturday’s game against Villanova, the Golden Eagles will host Georgetown on Wednesday and then play at Villanova next Saturday for the second meeting between the two teams in a week.

Villanova has nice wins over George Mason, Dayton, Mississippi, La Salle, Maryland and St. Joseph’s. The Wildcats lost at Temple 75-65 on December 13 for their only loss thus far. They’ve played four road games, all in a row, and in the three road games that were against decent teams (they won at Fordham by 38) they gave up at least 75 points in all of them, including at least 86 in two of them. But the Wildcats win by outscoring their opponents, as they’ve scored at least 95 points in four of their last five games, with the only time not scoring that much being their only loss. Villanova is coming off two straight blowout victories, by 38 over Fordham and by 34 over Delaware. The ‘Cats haven’t played since December 23, so they’ve had nine days off to prepare for their Big East opener.

Both of these teams are all about their guards and usually play with four guards on the court together. It’s very possible that in this game, where big men are virtually irrelevant, there could be a point where both teams put all guards and wings on the floor and there are no big men for either team.

Both of these teams force a lot of turnovers by pressing and trapping with their quick guards. Marquette and Villanova both are forcing more than 16 turnovers per game.

Both teams rely heavily on 3-point shooting. Villanova has made 103 3-pointers and is shooting 37.3 percent from beyond the arc, while Marquette has made 96 3-pointers and is shooting 42.5 percent. For Nova, Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Reggie Redding, Taylor King, Corey Stokes, Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek are all excellent outside shooters. For Marquette, Lazar Hayward, Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom (59.6 percent), Maurice Acker, Dwight Buycks and David Cubillan can all light it up from 3-point territory.

Villanova is one of the better teams in the country at getting to the free throw line, averaging 27.3 attempts per game and shooting a remarkable 75.9 percent as a team from the charity stripe.

Marquette shoots better from the field than Nova (48.1 pct-45 pct), but Nova is a little better and defending, holding opponents to 39.5 percent from the field while Marquette is allowing opponents to shoot 42.5 percent.

Villanova is 5-1 ATS in its last six games following an ATS win and 7-2 ATS in its last nine games overall. Marquette is 2-6 ATS in its last eight home games and also 2-6 ATS in its last eight games following an ATS win. The total has gone over in each of Nova’s last six games overall as well as its last four road games. The total has gone over in Marquette’s last five games against teams with a winning SU record. The total has also gone over in each of the last five meetings between Marquette and Villanova. The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five games between these teams, and Villanova is 1-6 ATS in the last seven games against Marquette.

Ryno’s Pick: Both of these teams will force some turnovers for easy baskets and shoot a lot of 3-pointers. It’s tough to predict which team will be hotter from beyond the arc. Marquette is shooting a higher percentage and is at home, but Nova could neutralize that by getting to the free throw line. It looks like a down-to-the wire game will take place between these teams and it could go either way. But with so much up-tempo guard play and great shooters, expect a high-scoring affair with the winner getting at least 90 points. Take the over.