UConn to 'Cover' vs. Villanova for NCAA Tournament Picks

David Lawrence

Friday, March 21, 2014 6:13 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 21, 2014 6:13 PM UTC

Two former Big East rivals will meet in this one as Connecticut squares off with Villanova. Take a look at our handicapper's NCAA basketball picks for this stepping stone to the sweet sixteen.

Neither team played all that well in the second round of the NCAA tournament, so both squads are hoping that they'll be at their best in this third-round game, which is sure to whip up a lot of emotions on both benches and in the stands as well.

The Huskies can win because…
They played poorly against Saint Joseph's in the second round and got away with it. Connecticut's defense was smacked around for most of the game, and it was only because Saint Joseph's star post player, Halil Kanacevic, fouled out late that Connecticut was able to win in overtime. When a team plays poorly and still finds a way to win, such a turn of events is very encouraging for the players, and it's also a gift for the coaching staff, because it can really get on its players yet offer them a lot of motivation for the next challenge.

The other really big reason why Connecticut will cash for your NCAA basketball picks is that Villanova is not playing very well at all right now. The Wildcats lost to a mediocre Seton Hall team in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament, and they missed 18 of their first 20 three-point shots in their sluggish second-round win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Thursday night. Villanova depends on the three-point shot for much of its offensive output, but nobody is hitting threes with any consistency, and that really has to concern head coach Jay Wright. It's one thing when one player fails to hit shots, but a lot of Wildcats are not putting the round orange sphere into the hoop. If this doesn't change quickly, Villanova will lose, and it could potentially lose by a lot.

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The Wildcats can win because…
They are playing a Connecticut team that is also not playing very well at the moment. The Huskies didn't even look good in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament against Cincinnati. They won that game but they weren't impressive. It should also be said that since Cincinnati lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to a 12th-seeded Harvard team on Thursday, the reputation of the American Athletic Conference is going down as we speak.

Connecticut hasn't played a very strong game in quite some time. The Huskies were broken down into little pieces by Louisville in two recent games – the same Louisville team that looked awful in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday night against Manhattan. Basically, if you think Villanova is the only team playing so-so basketball right now, you're wrong. Connecticut was able to steal a win over Saint Joseph's on Thursday. The Hawks took better shots and were faster to loose balls. If Connecticut can't change that part of its game on Saturday, Villanova will win those loose balls and get a lot of extra possessions, which will most likely make the difference.

Outlook & Pick
Villanova plays hard, but it is not playing with the smarts or execution it needs on offense. Connecticut has players who can create their own shots. The Huskies are going to jump up and beat the Wildcats on Saturday night.

Pick: Connecticut +3.5 at Bodog


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