Add Villanova -12 vs. Butler to Your NCAA Basketball Picks

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 8:22 PM GMT

Villanova was expected to be the class of the Big East Conference this season and non-conference play hasn't changed that. The Wildcats are 12-point home favorites at BetOnline's NCAA basketball odds for Wednesday's Big East opener against Butler.

Back to Big Dance for Butler?
Butler was one of the nation's best mid-major programs under former Coach Brad Stevens. However, he left for the Boston Celtics job after the 2012-13 season. Most expected a bit of a step back under his replacement, Brandon Miller. It was much worse than expected as Butler was just 14-17 and a terrible 4-14 in the school's inaugural season in the Big East. However, with some key players back Butler was expected to be a Big East contender and a likely NCAA Tournament team this season.

The Bulldogs may well be but they were dealt a blow back in early October before the season when Miller took an indefinite leave of absence for an undisclosed medical reason. He's not expected back this season. So Chris Holtmann, who guided Gardner-Webb to a school-record 21 wins before joining the Bulldogs' staff last season, was named interim coach. He has led the Bulldogs to a 10-3 mark in the non-conference schedule. It's never too early to think about NCAA Tournament resumes and Butler has impressive wins over North Carolina and Georgetown, both in the Bahamas. That Hoyas win doesn't count in the Big East standings. Butler's losses have come to quality teams: Oklahoma, Tennessee and Indiana.

Junior guard Kellen Dunham leads the Bulldogs in averaging 16.6 points per game. However, the club's best player is probably junior forward Roosevelt Jones. He missed all of last season due to injury but has bounced back to average 11.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

Butler is solid on the defensive end, allowing just 56.2 points per game, which is No. 17 in the nation. The Bulldogs have held 10 of their first 13 opponents under 60 points and 12 of 13 under 70 points. The only one to top 70 was Indiana, one of the nation's highest-scoring teams.

The Bulldogs are 7-4 against the NCAA basketball betting spread this season and 1-1 on the road.

 

Nova Class of Big East
Villanova was the Big East regular-season champion last year -- before getting stunned in its opening game of the conference tournament -- and the overwhelming choice to repeat in 2014-15. The Wildcats rose to No. 6 in the Associated Press Top 25 this week with their 12-0 non-conference start. The Wildcats have matched the second-best start in school history, one win shy of the record set in 1937-38.  They have a handful of quality wins: VCU, Michigan, St. Joe's, Illinois, Temple and against old Big East foe Syracuse.

Against the Orange, senior guard Darrun Hilliard suffered a concussion early in overtime. He had a monster game in the win, playing 35 minutes and scoring 23 points with five rebounds. Hilliard missed Villanova's most recent game, a blowout of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, but he has been cleared and will play in this one. That snapped a string of 79 straight starts for Hilliard. He averages team-highs of 12.6 points and 2.2 steals go to with 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Villanova ranks 29th nationally in scoring at 77.9 points per game and leads Big East teams in average margin of victory at plus-18.7 per game. Seven players average at least 7.6 points. Since the start of last season, Nova is 36-1 when scoring 70 or more points in a game. That includes 11-0 this year. The only team to hold the Wildcats under 70 was Michigan, with Villanova winning that one 60-55.

When making your NCAA basketball picks for wedmesday keep in mind that the Wildcats are 8-3 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds this season overall and 4-2 at home. Villanova is +2500 to win the national title at sportsbooks.

 

Last Season
Villanova swept Butler to improve to 3-0 all time against the Bulldogs. The teams opened Big East play on New Year's eve last season in Indianapolis and Villanova won 76-73 in overtime. JayVaughn Pinkston scored 20 points, including the clinching free throws in overtime. Pinkston had missed the potential game-winning jumper at the end of regulation. The Wildcats are 8-5 in Big East openers since Jay Wright became the head coach in 2001 and have won their last two. Butler visited Villanova on Feb. 26 and lost 67-48. The Bulldogs shot only 30.6 percent. Dunham was 3-for-13 but led the team with 12 points.

NCAAB Free Picks: Bet Villanova -12 on NCAA basketball odds at BetOnline. Butler is 3-9-1 ATS in its past 13 on the road against teams with a winning home record. Villanova is 10-1 ATS in its past 11 Wednesday games. It closed last season covering four of its final five Big East games.

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