Villanova looks for answers

February 26, 2019 10:28 PM

Wednesday night’s Big East rematch featuring conference leader Marquette visiting second-place Villanova (FS1, 9 p.m. ET) was expected to determine the regular-season champ and #1 seed for the league tourney. Instead, it will help frame the answer for bettors, “What the heck is wrong with Villanova?!”

The defending national champions have lost three straight games as favorites…

Villanova (-4) lost at St.  John’s 71-65

Villanova (-6) lost at Georgetown 85-73

Villanova (-5.5) lost at Xavier 66-54

All three missed market expectations by double digits. And all three coming away from home might hint at more problems ahead in the Big East tournament and the NCAAs.

Villanova’s slide actually started with a 66-65 loss at Marquette. Call it four losses in the last five games, with the following issues jumping out of the box scores to stat-based handicappers...

  • Villanova’s interior defense has been very soft, allowing 58% on two-point shots at Marquette, 62% at Georgetown, and 64% at Xavier. 
  • Villanova’s three-point shooting has gone cold. In those four recent road losses, the Wildcats are a combined 39 of 138 from behind the arc, just 28%. (A mix of “missing treys” while “allowing easy deuces” is a brutally bad combination!)
  • Villanova isn’t getting to the free-throw line enough, attempting just 62 while opponents had 81 tries from the charity stripe. 

For now, it looks like a second-place conference finish for the Wildcats. They trail Marquette by two in the loss column with just a few games left. More importantly for handicappers and futures bettors, the door may have swung wide-open for a surprise winner of the Big East tournament (March 13-16 at MSG). Marquette will have nothing at stake with a Big Dance ticket already locked in. A feisty but inconsistent mid-section has several teams who could win a few coin flips in a row. 

Let’s check in on recent “market form”:

  • Marquette: still consistently underrated by the market, is 3-0 against the spread its last three, 14-4 ATS its last 18, and 18-9 ATS for the season.
  • St. John’s: still yo-yoing, now off a weekend win over Seton Hall, but 1-5 ATS off its last six covers.
  • Seton Hall: 5-8 ATS its last 13, and a shocking 3-10 ATS at home this season.
  • Xavier: four straight outright upsets after a long slump, covering its last three by 19, 6.5, and 17.5 points.
  • Georgetown: outside of the upset of Villanova, 3-6 ATS its last nine, 9-16-1 ATS this season.
  • Butler: 2-6 ATS its last eight, a big disappointment down the stretch.
  • Creighton: up-and-down, with more down than up. 
  • DePaul: 0-3 ATS its last three, missing the market by 15.5, 6.5, and 13 points.
  • Providence: 2-5 ATS its last seven, 5-10 ATS in Big East play…which consists of 2-0 vs. St. John’s, but 0-5 and 3-10 vs. everyone else. 

There aren’t any prizes for looking sharp in the last week of February. But Xavier is at least a team on the rise compared to the rest of the pack. Be sure to scout the Musketeers Thursday at St. John’s (FS1, 6:30 p.m. ET).

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