The biggest question here is, what matters most to Villanova? Thanks to three postponed games that won’t be made up, Providence has already secured the Big East’s regular-season title for the first time in its history, despite Villanova having to play three more games than the Friars did. That begs the question, will the Wildcats be more concerned with trying to sweep the Friars and stamping an asterisk on Providence’s first Big East title, or on getting through the week and getting ready for the Big East tournament next week?
If it’s the latter, there’s a good chance that Providence keeps this fairly close. If not, the Wildcats could unload on the Friars, given that Collin Gillespie took over the game despite being hampered by a swollen ankle when the teams met in Rhode Island. There are two other factors that aren’t going to work in the Friars’ favor here: complacency and fatigue. Providence has gone to overtime in three of its past five games, with its only easy win being the victory over Creighton to wrap up the Big East regular-season crown. With that title finally in hand, there’s a better-than-average chance that the Friars are mentally checked out and ready to go into a week-long break before the Big East tournament.
The numbers say that these teams are slow-paced squads, but because Villanova both shoots a lot of 3-pointers and leads the nation in free throw percentage, the Wildcats don’t follow that formula of slow-paced squads playing unders very well. The last time these teams faced off, Providence got plenty of offense from Nate Watson and Jared Bynum, but had no answer for Gillespie or anyone else in a Villanova jersey.
Given that both teams committed a fair amount of fouls last time, I think this game is going to be whistled tightly in the opening minutes, which means stopped clocks and points coming at the line for both teams. That’s a recipe for the teams pushing over the total.
I recommend backing Over 134.5 points.
Backing the Spread
Providence has been one of the most fortunate teams in the country to have the record it does, and I think Villanova will come out to try to prove a point. I also expect that Providence will come in with the mindset of the job already having been completed, as the Friars just achieved something that has never before happened in their program’s history.
That’s not a recipe for success, especially considering that Villanova is playing for both its NCAA seed and a first-round bye in the Big East tournament. The Wildcats have dominated this league for years, and something tells me they will not take kindly to seeing their crown taken from them — especially considering Providence took it not by winning it from them on the court, but by riding some fortunate scheduling.
I think this is Villanova’s chance to make its statement going into New York and I recommend playing Villanova -9.
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