Expect 'Nova & Butler To Stay Under Total

Villanova Wildcats players

Wednesday, January 4, 2017 1:50 PM GMT

Is this the night Villanova drops from the ranks of the unbeaten? Butler takes aim at doing just that as small underdogs at home in this marquee Big East matchup.

Villanova Wildcats vs Butler Bulldogs

Tested in their first two Big East contests, the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats face another stiff road challenge Wednesday evening when they travel to Indianapolis to take on the Butler Bulldogs.

It's the first of two scheduled meetings between the top 25 teams, this one tipping a little past 6:30 PM (ET). This one opened up with the Wildcats laying 1½, the spread rising to -2 following overnight wagering. Likewise, the total has also been on the rise, now 142½ after beginning 141.

It's the eighth overall meeting, and seventh as Big East rivals. Butler won the very first get-together at the '96 Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but it has been all 'Nova since then with the Wildcats capturing each of the six conference clashes. The Wildcats have covered the last two games in Indy, though just barely. Villanova closed as 4½ point chalk on this floor last January, rallying in the second half for a 60-55 triumph. Totals in Big East collisions have been split into thirds at Hinkle, 1-1-1 O/U/P.

Is 7-Man Rotation Wearing Thin On 'Nova?

DePaul almost pulled off the upset of the season last week when the Blue Demons took Villanova (14-0 straight up, 8-5 against the spread) to the limit as 24½ point underdogs on the NCAA basketball odds. The Wildcats used a bit of Lady Luck for the eventual 68-65 win, who the found themselves in a tough fight at Creighton on New Year's Eve before pulling away late for an 80-70 decision.

Jay Wright entered the season hopeful for a deeper rotation than what he's had available, some of that decided before the first game when prize recruit Omari Spellman became academically ineligible. Next came Phil Booth's balky knee, the same injury that limited him at times last year. The junior managed to play early but has missed the last 11 games with his return still up in the air. The absence of Booth has led to more playing time for sophomore Mikal Bridges (10.0 ppg) but leaves Wright with only seven players to turn to each game so far.

Will 3-Point Success/Failure Decide This One?

Butler (12-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) dropped its Big East opener at St. John's, 76-73, the Red Storm netting five free throws in the last 14 seconds to score the upset as 8 point dogs. Chris Holtman's crew did bounce back at home this past Saturday with a 78-61 win and cover over Providence, Kethan Savage and Avery Woodson combining for 21 off the bench to help spark the Bulldogs.

Both sides have enjoyed good starts thanks to solid defensive play, Villanova holding opponents to 61.9 PPG (21st) while Butler is limiting them to 64.6 (38th). A good portion of that can be attributed to play around the perimeter, the Wildcats fifth in the country harassing foes to just a 27.8% success rate from 3-point land with the Bulldogs at 30.1% (35th). It is the defensive nature of both clubs that has me making my free college basketball pick on the low side of the total.

Free NCAAB Pick: Under 142½

Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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