Villanova Will The Win Big East Title Against DePaul As Our NCAA Basketball Pick

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 4:40 PM GMT

It's Villanova's finale as the nation's No. 3 team and Big East Conference leader hosts a bad DePaul club that is second-to-last in the conference. Nova the favorite on the NCAA basketball odds.

Blue Demons Playing Out The String
DePaul's basketball program used to be the toast of Chicago under legendary coach Ray Meyer but those days are long gone. The Blue Demons aren't keeping the top talent in the city at home (think Jabari Parker or Derrick Rose to name two recent stars from the Windy City who left) and haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 2004. The school hasn't finished with a winning record since 2006-07.

The school dumped Coach Oliver Purnell after last season's 12-20 record and made what many thought was an uninspired choice to replace Purnell in Dave Leitao. He left DePaul after the 2004-05 season to take the same position at Virginia. The hiring hasn't really done much as DePaul is 9-19 overall and 3-13 in the Big East, ahead of only St. John's in the standings.

The Blue Demons enter this game off an 87-66 loss at Providence on Saturday. Eli Cain scored 22 points and Darrick Wood added 15 for DePaul. The dropped the Blue Demons to 2-5 this season against ranked teams. Cain was named to the Big East's honor roll Monday, his first such honor. The freshman averaged 19.0 points in two games last week. Cain shot 63.9 percent from the field. He looks like a keeper and a good building block going forward. The team's best player this season has been senior forward Myke Henry (13.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg), but he was limited to six points vs. Providence. It was Henry's fourth game in the past five scoring in single digits.

DePaul is 9-17-1 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds boards this season and 4-7-1 ATS at home.

 

Wildcats Have Eyes On NCAA Top Seed
Villanova (25-4, 14-2 Big East) was No. 1 in last week's polls but dropped to No. 3 in Monday's Associated Press Top 25 and No. 2 in the USA Today poll -- Kansas is No. 1 in both. The Wildcats lost last Wednesday at No. 5 Xavier but rebounded with an 89-79 win at Marquette on Saturday. Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart each scored 19 points to lead Villanova in the win. Daniel Ochefu had 18 points and 12 rebounds. Villanova shot 57.7 percent and had 20 assists on its 30 field goals.

Villanova leads the Big East in scoring defense at 63.1 ppg but has allowed 84.5 ppg in the past two. Both Xavier and Marquette converted better than 50 percent of their field goal attempts. The last team to do that against Villanova was Virginia on Dec. 19 in a Cavs win. Coach Jay Wright made it clear defense would be a focus in practice.

That Marquette victory was No. 25 on the season for Villanova as the school reached that mark for the 12th time overall and third straight year. The Wildcats got better news Sunday when second-place Xavier was upset at Seton Hall. That gave Villanova at least a share of its third straight Big East regular-season title. It can win the championship outright with a victory here or Saturday at home against Georgetown; while Tuesday's game is at the Pavilion on the Nova campus, Saturday's is at the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Philadelphia.

Most projections still have Villanova as the No. 1 seed in the East Region in the NCAA Tournament. That would be a lock if the Cats win their final two regular-season games and then the Big East Tournament. They'd probably still be a No. 1 even if losing in the Big East final. The Wildcats will be the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament and will open it March 10 against the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 game the night before. At BetOnline, Villanova is the +110 favorite for the Big East Tournament.

Villanova is 14-13-1 ATS on NCAA basketball picks this season and 7-6 ATS at home.

 

First Meeting
On Feb. 9, Villanova visited DePaul as a 14.5-point favorite at sportsbooks and won 86-59. That was the Wildcats' first-ever game as the nation's No. 1 team. Hart led Villanova with 18 points. The Blue Demons had just one player in double figures: Cain with 15. The Wildcats have won the last 11 meetings overall.

Villanova has won 38 straight games at the Pavilion and clearly that streak isn't in jeopardy here. Can DePaul cover? I'll say no. The Blue Demons have covered only five of their past 21 games vs. teams with a winning record. Villanova is 20-8 ATS in its past 28 vs. teams with a losing record. The Cats are 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. Be sure to also check out tonight's top value games to fatten your wallet

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Villanova -22
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes