|Villanova Wildcats||vs.||Providence Friars|
|(19-6 SU, 13-12 ATS)||Form||(21-2 SU, 14-9 ATS)|
This is the game that Providence has been waiting for: Villanova at home. Given that the Friars have never won the Big East (and since the league was reconfigured in 2013, they’ve never finished higher than third), it’s not an exaggeration to say this is the biggest game that the school has faced since 1997 when it came a game away from making the Final Four.
Villanova, however, isn’t likely to let its title go without a fight. The Wildcats have won the league three years running and have won seven league crowns since 2013, and they enter this game as winners of five of their past six.
But Villanova has had a habit of letting teams hang around because of how slow-paced it plays the game, which has led to just a 2-6 ATS mark in its past eight games. The Wildcats didn’t look great in their past two road games, escaping a weak St. John’s squad and taking their second loss of the year to Marquette. Providence, meanwhile, keeps doing just enough to get the job done, having won eight in a row to put itself in first place in the league.
Betting the Total
Betting a Villanova total is one of the hardest things to do in sports because the Wildcats are a walking contradiction. Villanova plays an incredibly slow-paced game, waiting for the perfect shot to present itself.
So, that should lend itself to a fair amount of unders, but it doesn’t for two reasons. First, when the Wildcats get that perfect shot, they usually make it, and it’s a 3-pointer a fair amount of the time. Second, Villanova doesn’t miss many free throws. The Wildcats lead the nation in free throw percentage so if they get a lead, the game is basically over.
Providence doesn’t play much faster than Villanova, and these teams have typically played out some rock fights in their annual matchups. In fact, the best bet on the board might be for Providence to go under its team total of 63.5, as the Friars have failed to hit that number in six of their past seven meetings with Villanova.
That doesn’t mean Providence can’t win, as it’s won two of the past three matchups despite not breaking 60 points. But it does mean that taking the total Under holds a lot of value, especially if you like the Friars.
Backing the Spread
I don’t love the Friars here and think their record is more a product of good fortune than great play, but I also don’t love laying 4.5 points with Villanova on the road. Not only do I think Villanova might be a bit worse than its record suggests this season, but Providence has tended to play Villanova tough in recent years. In the teams’ past four meetings, Providence +4.5 would be a winner on three occasions, and the Friars have won the game outright twice.
There’s enough here for me to lean toward Providence and the points as the pick.