The Wildcats just thumped Xavier on Monday, putting the Musketeers closer to the very large and noticeably mediocre bubble. Villanova might not be getting tested in this year’s version of the Big East, compared to past incarnations of the conference, but with the exception of one horrible night against Creighton, there really hasn’t been much of anything to find fault with in terms of the Wildcats’ performance in conference play. Head coach Jay Wright has Villanova playing at a high level and what’s more is that the team was able to shrug off the Creighton debacle in the ensuing weeks, as though nothing ever really happened. That’s the mark of a poised and focused team that knows how to adjust to negative developments. Take Villanova in this situation against a Seton Hall team that has been a magnet for bad luck in recent years.
Pick: Villanova -13.5
DePaul Blue Demons vs. Creighton Bluejays
This is a game in which Villanova’s primary competitor in the Big East, Creighton, won’t be troubled. DePaul might now reside in a scaled-down Big East in which it is not going to be torn to shreds by the same number of high-level opponents. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Cincinnati are now in other conferences, so that’s a source of relief for the Blue Demons. However, DePaul is still way out of its league against Creighton – especially in Omaha on the Bluejays’ home floor. DePaul has a long way to go before it can be seen as a strong program. Creighton will get a fairly high seed in the NCAA tournament and should be able to dispose of DePaul without much of any trouble.
Pick: Creighton -19.5
Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
This is a game in which Southern Mississippi needs to come through in order to shore up its at-large candidacy for the NCAA tournament. Let’s say that Southern Miss – at the top of Conference USA – does not win the league tournament and the automatic bid that comes with it. The Golden Eagles would need to boost their profile as much as possible during the regular season, so that they could lose their league tournament yet still get into the field of 68. Playing at home late on a Friday night, the Golden Eagles should have a vociferous crowd at their back. This should enable a talented USM squad to do what it takes to knock back Marshall in Conference USA.
Pick: Southern Mississippi -18.5