The Connecticut Huskies will look to remain undefeated on the season Wednesday evening when they host the Villanova Wildcats. The Huskies are currently ranked second in the country after starting the season with a sparkling 13-0 record. The contest is scheduled to tip-off at 6:30 PM EST at the XL Arena in Hartford CT. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1. The Huskies are currently home-court favorites by a (-12) spread after opening at (-14.5) while the total has shrunk from 147.5 points to 147.
The Villanova Wildcats are trying to get acclimated to life in the post-Jay Wright era and struggled early in the season to find steady footing. After a disappointing 2-5 start, the Wildcats have won five consecutive games with their most recent victory coming against St. John’s in new coach Kyle Neptune’s Big East opener. Eric Dixon led four Wildcats in double figures with 18 points along with six rebounds en route to the 15-point victory.
Connecticut has been easily the most surprising team of the college basketball season thus far. The Huskies have gone from a team that could compete for a Big East title to a national championship contender behind a tremendously well-balanced attack on both ends of the floor. The Huskies tempted fate in their last game against rival Georgetown when they actually trailed a horrendous Hoyas team by seven points with under eleven minutes to play. They were able to eventually get it together and put another notch in the win column by an eleven-point margin.
As they have long been conference mates, it’s not surprising that these two teams have a long history. Given the fact they are two of the most storied programs in college basketball history, it should also not be surprising that the all-time series is split 38-32 in favor of the Wildcats. Villanova took two of the three meetings last season, all of which took place on or after February 5th. The Wildcats were also responsible for knocking the Huskies out of the Big East Conference tournament last season, bringing their recent dominance to six wins in the last seven meetings overall.
Connecticut Huskies Overview
The Huskies are one the most well-rounded teams in the nation as the only team in the Pomeroy rankings that find themselves in the top six in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency rankings. Danny Hurley’s club is 17th in the nation in points per game at 83.6 while ranking 12th in the nation in defensive points per game at 58.6.
Connecticut is currently 2-0 in Big East league play, having defeated Butler along with the previously mentioned Georgetown. Earlier in the season, the Huskies were able to knock off talented teams such as Oregon, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Alabama, and Florida and doing so in convincing fashion as all of those wins came by a double-digit margin.
Despite missing two-plus games, this season (only played six minutes in the Iowa State games), Jordan Hawkins has fulfilled his breakout player prognostications this season. The sophomore wing has already logged three games with five triples made and was able to connect on six three-point field goals in the December 10ths contest against Long Island University.
Adama Sanogo has been the other tent pole for UConn this season, leading the team in points (18.6) and rebounds (7.2) while ranking second in blocked shots. The key for Sanogo’s rise to stardom has been his consistency. The junior Mali native has scored in double figures in all but a single game this season. Sanogo has a protege backing him up this season in Donovan Clingan, a 7’2 center that is averaging 9.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his freshman campaign.
UConn is currently the best team in the Big East ATS at 11-1-1 and are outperforming the spread by +8.8 points per game with a margin of victory number of 25.0 points per contest.
Villanova Wildcats Overview
As mentioned above, Villanova has seemingly righted the ship under new coach Kyle Neptune. The former Fordham coach hit some expected rough roads in replacing a sure-fire hall-of-fame coach in Jay Wright but appears to be gaining a foothold over the last few weeks.
Some familiar names are leading the Wildcats this season as holdovers from the previous era. Eric Dixon currently leads the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game, while perimeter threats Caleb Daniels and Brandon Slater also remain with the program.
Daniels, a sixth-year senior, is second on the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game while shooting 34.3% from beyond the arc on the season. Slater, a fifth-year senior, ranks fourth on the team in scoring at 11.8 points per game, along with 5.5 rebounds per contest. Five-star recruit Cam Whitmore is finding his footing, having now played in five games after missing the team’s first seven contests. The former top-15 recruit is averaging 12.4 points and a team-leading 6.2 rebounds per game. He has also proven to be a competent defender leading the team in steals at 1.4 per ballgame.
The Wildcats are currently the worst team in the Big East against the spread at 4-8 on the season. They are underperforming the anticipated margin by -4.2 points per game overall but shrinks to -3.0 points per game on the road. Along with their current five game winning streak, the Wildcats have covered in three of their last five games.
Villanova at Connecticut Prediction
While the Villanova offense has been effective lately, it is their defense that remains troubling. The Wildcats currently rank 124th in adjusted defensive efficiency this season and are 229th in the nation in three-point percentage defense. Coincidentally, Connecticut is one of the most potent three-point shooting teams in the nation. Look for Connecticut to win the game straight up as well as cover the number at home.