Villanova Peaking at Right Time in Bid for Another Title

Rainman M.

Thursday, March 29, 2018 12:48 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 29, 2018 12:48 PM UTC

Villanova is a rarity in this year's NCAA Tournament, a top seed that hasn't suffered an upset and made the path to the Final Four look fairly easy. The Wildcats are now two wins from their second national title in the past three seasons.

Villanova Wildcats (34-4 SU, 25-12-1 ATS)

Coach Jay Wright, who won the NCAA championship with Villanova in 2016, knows how to get his players prepared to play their best when it matters most. The Wildcats struggled in February with three losses, in a season in which they've lost four games total. But they have been a hot betting choice in the tournament, covering in each of their four games, against Radford, Alabama, West Virginia and Texas Tech. The East Region champion Wildcats haven't just been covering spreads, they've been destroying them. They've at least doubled the spread in each of their past three games. In the opener against Radford, they obtained a sufficient lead for the cover in the first half before they fought boredom the rest of the way and beat boredom in order to secure the cover.

An impressive facet of Villanova's tournament run is that they haven't been dominating games from start to finish. Against Bama and West Virginia, they seemed like they could possibly lose. Against Bama, they were up by only five at halftime. They ended up destroying Bama by 18 points in the second half. Against West Virginia, they were down 60-54 with 11 minutes left in the second half, but came back to easily cover. They took advantage of missed shots and simply ran to the end of the court, passed the ball around, found the open man, and drained threes. Nova loves to shoot the three, ranking 14th nationally in proportion of threes attempted, and is very good at it, ranking 15th nationally in three-point percentage. Forward Mikal Bridges and center Omari Spellman rank in the top 80 in the category, and three others rank in the top 400. Three-point shooting has been the primary medium through which they've been able to discover that extra gear in order to win and cover.

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Until they played Texas Tech, Nova really struggled to score against the lengthy, turnover-heavy and overall elite Red Raiders defense. They had mustered only 48 points with 10 minutes left in the game. Overall, they shot only 4-for-24 from three. One could say they got that one inevitable bad game out of the way. The Wildcats still covered with ease. They play good defense, ranking 13th nationally in KenPom efficiency, and held Tech superstar point guard Keenan Evans to 12 points. Evans, though a proven senior gamer, lacks the cool and collected personality of Nova point guard Jalen Brunson, the NBA-caliber star who collected tournament experience by starting for Nova in 2017 and in the championship year in 2016.

The Wildcats limited the Raiders to 59 points and Brunson contributed 15 points, all from the free- throw line or inside the arc, against Texas Tech's stout interior defense. Brunson, before that game, had produced a KenPom offensive rating of more than 120 in the past seven games, going back to the first game in March, and he ranks 13th in the category with 129.7. Normally a good three-point shooter, he's primed to bounce back against his next opponent.

The college basketball odds board has Villanova as a 5-point favorite for Saturday's national semifinal against Kansas. Five points might seem like a lot for such an important game, but oddsmakers are still struggling to account for how good Nova really is. The Wildcats have covered in 25 of 38 games.

Villanova isn't an iconic name like Duke or North Carolina. But they do have a history with success in the tournament that includes five Final Four appearances and two national championships, the most recent in 2016. Since 1970, they are 2-1 in the Final Four and 2-0 in the title game. They are a strong betting option with your NCAAB picks to win it all again.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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