The Big East Tournament rolls on with a semifinal matchup featuring the three-seed UConn Huskies (23-8) against the second-seed #8 Villanova Wildcats (24-7). UConn dropped Seton Hall yesterday, 62-52, while Villanova escaped Saint Johns, 66-65. The two split their head-to-head matchups during the regular season.
Friday’s tipoff is at 9 p.m. EST inside the historic Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Villanova is a 3-point favorite, and the over-under total 131.5 points.
What to Know – #20 UConn Huskies
The Huskies closed out the regular season, winning six of their final seven games to rise up the Big East standings and claim the three-seed.
Tonight’s contest is huge for UConn for the NCAA Tournament, with the Huskies currently projected as a five-seed, but a victory could push them into a four-seed slot. UConn is ranked 20th in KenPom and 17th in the NCAA NET rankings.
UConn was third in the league, scoring 76.3 points per game, hitting 45.9% of its shots from the field and 35.2% of its shots from the arc. The Huskies’ defense held opponents to 66.0 points per game, 40.3% shooting from the floor and 36.8% from deep.
R.J. Cole and Tyrese Martin each scored 17 points, leading UConn to a ten-point victory over the Pirates in yesterday’s tournament quarterfinals. Isaiah Whaley added ten points, seven rebounds, and four blocks for the Huskies. UConn crashed the boards, outrebounding Seton Hall, 46-33.
What to Know – #8 Villanova Wildcats
Villanova ended the regular season much like the Huskies, winning seven of their last eight games. The Wildcats are projected as a two-seed for the NCAA Tournament, but a Big East Tournament title would place Villanova in the conversations for a top-seed. Villanova is ranked 11th in the KenPom and sixth in the NET.
The Wildcats were eighth in the conference averaging 70.2 points per game while shooting 42.3% from the floor and 31.4% from the 3-point line. Villanova’s defense surrendered 66.7 points per contest, 42.3% shooting from the field, and 33.3% from three.
Trailing at the half, the Wildcats mounted a wild second-half comeback to avoid being eliminated early in the tournament quarterfinals by the Red Storm. Caleb Daniels led the Wildcats with 19 points, connecting on 5-of-9 threes in the victory. Justin Moore added 15 points, and Collin Gillespie chipped in 14 for Villanova.
The Pick is In
Friday’s semifinal matchup will be the rubber match between these two conference rivals. Both teams won their home contests against each other during the regular season.
Fans should expect a close battle on Friday night, with both teams closing out the season on a hot streak. UConn appears to be the team to beat, though, with the Huskies looking efficient on both sides of the ball.
Villanova didn’t look great in their tournament opener yesterday, and they won’t get as lucky Friday night against a UConn team that is hungry to make some noise in the tournament.
Betting Pick: UConn Huskies +3