The No. 14 Villanova Wildcats will travel to Newark on Wednesday evening to take on the league-leading Seton Hall Pirates in a game that has regular-season title implications as well as Big East tournament impact. No. 8 Seton Hall currently leads the league with a 13-3 record with two games remaining while both Villanova and Creighton sit at 11-5.
The Wildcats are coming off of a tough home loss to red-hot Providence last weekend when the Friars held Nova to just 54 points and 0.79 points per possession. If they have any shot at sharing the Big East regular-season title, they will need to recover quickly against a Seton Hall team that has won three in a row against quality competition.
Saddiq Bey and Collin Gillespie have been pacing Villanova all season, each averaging over 15 points per game while freshman big man Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is averaging nearly a double-double at 10.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per contest.
The Pirates have recovered after losing two in a row to Creighton and Providence to defeat Butler, St. Johns, and Marquette in succession. While Myles Powell receives most of the publicity, it has been Sandro Mamukelashvili that has been the offensive stalwart.
The 6-11 junior has paced the Pirates over their three-game winning streak averaging 19.0 points and 8.3 rebounds along with 2.3 assists and a foolishly high 56% three-point shooting percentage.
Seton Hall is a four-point favorite in this one, with the over/under set at 140.5.
Shaky as a dog but the Cats do travel well
Villanova is just 2-3 straight up on the season but is an impressive 6-3-1 against the spread in true road games this season. Overall they are just 13-14-2 ATS but are 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven road games.
This year’s Villanova team has also been better defensively than last season, ranking 39th in Kenpom in adjusted defensive efficiency and holding teams to under 66 points per game. The result of that defense has led to 18 under totals in their 29 games this season and six of their last seven games overall.
No stormy seas with these Pirates
Seton Hall is currently the best team in the Big East against the spread at 18-10 overall this season, covering the spread by an average of +2.1 points per game.
The Pirates are 11-3 straight up home this season and 16-4 straight up as a favorite. Their totals have been inconsistent overall this season at just 14-13-1, but it has gone over in four of their last five and five of their last seven games.
A revenge game or a statement game?
I am staying away from the total in this game. Both teams are simply too inconsistent for me to be confident on one side or the other. As far as the spread goes, I love how Jay Wright is able to consistently get his teams to come together in March. Wright has a fantastic point guard in Gillespie, and Bey has been a revelation as far as how far he has come in a short period of time.
All of that said, Seton Hall, at home with its full array of weapons available, is hard to get away from. In the last meeting between these two teams, Villanova managed 0.94 points per possession and half as many turnovers as the Pirates and still lost.
Given the roll that Seton Hall is on lately, I am taking them at -4, but not anything more than that. The spread has risen from -3.5, so get in quickly.