Could Any Major School Run Table in Regular Season? Yes: Villanova

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, November 30, 2017 3:35 PM UTC

Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 3:35 PM UTC

Schools like Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky have gotten all the publicity thus far in the NCAA basketball season, but the best title value right now could be on Villanova.

Why is it so easy to almost forget about Villanova each season in NCAA basketball? Is it because the Wildcats don’t play in a Power 5 Conference? Because they are overshadowed in their own pro sports town by the Eagles or 76ers? Or perhaps it’s due to the fact you don’t find Villanova landing top recruiting classes each year like Duke or Kentucky or Kansas.

But all Coach Steve Lavin’s club does is win, and this writer would argue that the best betting value at BetOnline right now to cut down the nets next April in San Antonio is Villanova at +1400.

Of course, the Cats were national champions in the 2015-16 season, winning that title in epic fashion over North Carolina. Last year, Villanova won the Big East again but lost to Wisconsin by three in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Lavin lost three key players off the 2016-17 squad in superstar guard Josh Hart as well as forwards Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds. Juniors Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are the main men this year. Brunson was named the Big East’s Preseason Player of the Year and is living up to the billing thus far in averaging a team-best 18.4 points along with 4.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds. He’s shooting better than 65 percent from the field and almost never turns the ball over.

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🎥: @keybank Highlights from tonight’s W over Penn - Jake Nevin Field House was rockin’! pic.twitter.com/bKMgXCraPS

— Villanova MBB (@NovaMBB) November 30, 2017
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Bridges also has been excellent, putting up 17.9 points. 5.9 rebounds and 2.6 steals. Three other players average at least 10 points. It’s an experienced team with four juniors – guard Phil Booth missed all but three games in 2016-17 due to knee problems -- in the starting five along with touted redshirt freshman Omari Spellman, who was forced to sit out last season due to NCAA Clearinghouse problems.

KenPom ranks Villanova as the second-best team in the country, behind Kansas. Associated Press No. 1 Duke, if you are wondering, is seventh. The Wildcats are No. 4 in adjusted offensive efficiency (118.3 points per 100 possessions) and ninth in defensive efficiency (91.1 points allowed per 100 possessions). Basketball Reference’s Simple Rating System, which takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule, has Villanova third nationally behind Kansas and Texas A&M.

Last year, Villanova was 23-1 (.958) when holding its opponents to 65 or fewer points in a game. It is 5-0 this season. Yet again, Nova finished November with an unbeaten record – the school is 27-0 in the month since 2013. Its last November loss was a Big Five overtime defeat to La Salle 77-74 in 2012.

I’m not going to predict this or anything, but I believe if there’s one major program that could run the table in the regular season, it’s Villanova. Duke might be the most talented team, but the Blue Devils aren’t going through the loaded ACC without a loss. The Wildcats, on the other hand, are clearly the class of a watered-down Big East. Villanova has just five games scheduled against teams currently ranked in the Top 25: Gonzaga (an 88-72 Wildcats win on Dec. 5) and two each against Xavier and Creighton in the Big East. A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament seems very doable.

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