Free NCAA Basketball Picks: Big East Tournament Championship Game

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, March 12, 2016 3:17 PM GMT

A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament might be on the line for Villanova on Saturday evening when the Wildcats face Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament title game. Free pick inside.

Pirates Playing As Well As Anyone
Seton Hall (24-8) actually might have hurt the Big East with its 87-83 upset of No. 2 seed Xavier on Friday night. That's because the Musketeers, ranked No. 5 in the nation, could have had a shot to join Villanova as a top seed for the NCAA Tournament had they won that game and then beaten the Wildcats in this one. Xavier would have won two of three over the Wildcats and been 29-4 heading into Selection Sunday. Now ESPN  projects Xavier as a No. 3 seed.

As for the Pirates, they are currently projected as a No. 7 seed but certainly would improve that number with an upset here. I could see them getting as high as No. 5. SHU has lost just twice in its past 13 games: at home to Butler on Feb. 10 and March 2 at Butler.

Against Xavier, Pirates star Isaiah Whitehead certainly did his part with 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds; he was a Big East Player of the Year candidate, but that honor went to Providence's Kris Dunn. Whitehead has scored at least 20 points in six straight games and 10 of the past 12. Backcourt mate Khadeen Carrington continued his stellar play on Friday with 23 points -- he had 14 points, five rebounds and three assists in the first 16 minutes against Xavier, which was just 9-for-30 from the field in the first half. Those two combined for 51 points in the quarterfinal win over Creighton. Whitehead and Carrington each scored 20 points in the same game just once in the regular season (against Georgia). The Hall is unbeaten this season when scoring at least 80 points (9-0) and also without a loss when leading at halftime (20-0).

Seton Hall is in the Big East title game for the second time ever and first since 1993. The Pirates are 2-0 all-time in the game, beating Syracuse in '93 and Georgetown in 1991. SHU is a stellar 22-9 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds this season.  

 

Wildcats Locks For No. 1 In NCAA?
Villanova (29-4) was 16-2 in Big East regular-season play and won that title for a third straight season. The Cats are also defending Big East Tournament champions, beating Xavier 69-52 in last year's final. Josh Hart was the 2015 tournament MVP. He was its leading scorer at 17.7 points per game and also added 13 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and five steals. Hart is in the running for that award again if Villanova can win this game, although Kris Jenkins is probably the favorite right now for the Cats.

The Wildcats beat Providence 76-68 in Friday's semifinals. Jenkins led the way with 21 points. Ryan Arcidiacono had 15 points, seven boards and four assists. Hart had 12 points, five rebounds and two assists. Usual starting center Daniel Ochefu sprained his ankle in  practice Tuesday and came off the bench for the second straight game. He only played 13 minutes Thursday and 15 on Friday. Darryl Reynolds, the only other player on the active VU roster taller than 6-foot-7, started again Friday and finished with six points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes. But Nova needs a healthy Ochefu to realistically be a Final Four team.

Even with a loss, Villanova might still be the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament's East Region. It depends on what happens to  Michigan State and in the ACC Tournament final. The Wildcats are 15-16-1 ATS on NCAA basketball picks this season.

 

Season Series
Villanova won both. On Jan. 6 in Philadelphia, it was 72-63. Ochefu had 20 points and 18 rebounds in his best game of the year. Hart had 15  points and 10 rebounds for Nova, which was only 4-for-22 from 3-point range. Whitehead led the Pirates with 20 points. On Jan. 20 in Newark, it was 72-71. Arcidiacono hit a go-ahead layup with 32.4 seconds left and Ochefu blocked a layup by Derrick Gordon on the next possession. SHU and Villanova have split four all-time meetings at the Big East Tournament. The past three have been decided by two points or fewer. The Pirates are 13-3 ATS in their past 16 Big East games. Nova is 2-6 ATS in its past eight games. The Pirates are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Seton Hall +6.5
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