NCAAB Odds: La Salle To Keep It Close Enough Against Top-Ranked Villanova

la salle basketball

Willie Bee

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 4:38 PM GMT

Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016 4:38 PM GMT

Freshly anointed as the No. 1 team in the country for the second time ever, Villanova hits the floor Tuesday as a decided favorite on the NCAA basketball odds opposite crosstown Philadelphia rival La Salle.

True college basketball fans won't look at Tuesday's tilt between Villanova and the La Salle Explorers as just another tune-up for the defending national champion Wildcats. They'll recognize it as part of the annual Philadelphia Big 5 series, one of the longest-running traditions in the game and one that often offers up a surprise.

If a surprise in this rivalry is what we're in store for tonight, then it means the No. 1 team in the country is going down after Villanova moved to the top of the heap in the last rankings. The Wildcats and Explorers are playing at a neutral site, but one they're both very familiar with in The Palestra, normally the home for fellow Philly 5 combatant Penn. Tipoff on ESPN2 is a little past 7 p.m. ET and BookMaker has its wagering options set with Villanova -16½ for the spread, 149 for the total.

 

'Nova Begins 2-0 In Big 5 Play

Jay Wright's club rose to No. 1 thanks to two easy victories last week playing against a couple more Big 5 opponents, Penn and Saint Joseph's. The 88-57 win over the Quakers came at The Palestra with the Wildcats laying 13½ on the NCAA basketball odds. It was nearly the same result four days later at home vs. the Hawks, who were taken down by an 82-57 count with Villanova giving up 17½. Both contests went 'over' totals in the mid-to-upper 130s.

The Wildcats are getting it done with balanced and efficient shooting so far. Four players, led by Josh Hart's 17.1 PPG average, are putting up double-digit points each night, and the team ranks Top 25 in the country in both field goal and 3-point percentages. The Wildcats face No. 23 Notre Dame this weekend at the Prudential Center in Newark, then finish off the Big 5 slate next Tuesday at home vs. Temple. Villanova is looking to go unbeaten in the Philadelpha series for a fourth straight year.

 

Explorers Clicking From 3-Point Land

La Salle started a game in the hole in the city rivalry by losing its season opener at Temple, 97-92. John Giannini's gang was favored by a bucket in that one, then lost a second game to Texas Southern a little more than a week later in an unlined affair.

The Explorers have since recovered with three consecutive victories, the offense clicking in all three and the team shooting better than 50% each time. La Salle also netted half of its 3-point attempts (32-64) in the wins and ranks 11th this season from beyond the arc (42.1%). BJ Johnson, a junior transfer from Syracuse, and Jordan Rice, a senior who came over from Auburn several years ago, lead the team with 18.7 and 18.5 scoring averages, respectively.

Villanova has won the last three meetings for a 36-27 lead in the rivalry, La Salle's last win coming in 2012. A strong 'under' trend has driven totals betting, with seven of the last 10 meetings failing to reach the marks. I'm inclined to take the 'over' for my free NCAA basketball pick given how the two have been shooting, but more inclined to expect an underdog cover. Season record 12-10 (+1.00 units).

NCAAB Free Pick: La Salle +16.5Best Line Offered: BookMaker

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