NCAA Basketball Spread: Off
Villanova is usually in the thick of the Big East race at this point in the season, but the Wildcats will travel to Louisville this Wednesday with a 3-5 record in the conference. Louisville is 15-5 overall, but the Cardinals are just 3-4 in the Big East. Louisville has been hit hard by the injury bug, but they must find a way to fight through it and get back on track. Villanova has won their last two games. Can the Wildcats keep their momentum going in Louisville?
Jay Wright’s team is led by point guard Maalik Wayns. Wayns isn’t a big guy, but he finds ways to slither his way into the paint on a continual basis. Wayns averages 18.7 points per game, but he is shooting just 29% from beyond the arc. Villanova needs Wayns to keep being aggressive getting to the hoop rather than settling for the outside jumper. Mouphtaou Yarou started the season out very well, but he has been struggling of late. Villanova needs Yarou to be a major presence in the post. Yarou has some good low post moves, but sometimes he isn’t selfish enough on the offensive end. The strengths of this Villanova offense are their ability to get second chance opportunities on the glass and get to the free throw line.
Defensively, Villanova hasn’t been very good this year. The Wildcats are allowing opponents to put up 70.7 points per game. Villanova’s opponent has scored at least 71 points in eight straight games. While the Wildcats offense isn’t bad, it’s definitely difficult to count on scoring 75 points per game or more in the Big East.
Louisville lost Mike Marra to a season-ending injury before the season started. Rakeem Buckles is out with another season-ending knee injury. The main place this has hurt the Cardinals is one the offensive end. Marra was one of the team’s best shooters, and Buckles was a force on the offensive glass, but the team must find a way to get by without them. Rick Pitino is a very good coach, and you have to expect this team to continue to improve right through March. Four players average double figures in points for the Cardinals. Kyle Kuric leads the way with 13.4 points per contest. Russ Smith and Chris Smith are a nice one-two combination at the two-guard spot.
Louisville is a contender primarily because they are a very good defensive team. Peyton Siva is a tough on-the-ball defender, and Gorgui Dieng is improving constantly at the center spot. Opponents are shooting just 37.2% against Louisville. The Cardinals are allowing 61.6 points per game this year.
Villanova has struggled on the road this year, and I don’t think they’ll handle Louisville’s defensive pressure well. Look for the Cardinals to come out of here with a win.
Prediction: Louisville 74 Villanova 63
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