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College Basketball Pick
and Score Prediction
What the heck is going on with Villanova these days? At the moment, it's one of the many unanswerable questions to the current college basketball season. At the beginning of last week, the Wildcats were coming off three straight losses with the most recent one coming at Providence. There was no way they were going to beat two of the best teams in the country, right?
Villanova didn't win by luck as 11.5-point underdogs over Louisville, they were ahead that entire game. They were even beating Syracuse most of the way until the Orange fought back at the end. Nevertheless, Nova prevailed in overtime as 7-point underdogs. Should it also be mentioned that this is the same team that lost by 18 points to Columbia back in November with the same roster?
Luckily, Notre Dame is a little less confusing. They were a tad overrated entering Big East play with a 12-1 record. They beat Kentucky, but lost to Saint Joseph's and that was about it for difficult contests. A road win at Cincinnati had everyone believing in the Fighting Irish as they were ranked as high as No. 17 in the AP Polls. Since that ranking, they have gone 2-3 including two home losses to Connecticut and Georgetown and a loss at St. John's. Like a lot of teams from the Big East in the early season, they were overrated. Now they get to have a home game against a suddenly hot Villanova team.
Out of nowhere, the Wildcats suddenly have a balanced and efficient offense. They are shooting better, making more threes (16 in the last two games) and are getting to the charity stripe more often. Guard Darrun Hilliard is suddenly a playmaker and hitting more of his shots going for 25 points, seven boards and six assists against Syracuse. He has reached double-digits in eight of the past 10 games after failing to reach 10 points in seven straight games. Their leading scorer and substitute, JayVaughn Pinkston, has been their most consistent player all season, but he's still averaging the fifth-most minutes on the team.
It will come down to if they can continue to make shots or not. Hillard along with Ryan Arcidiacono and James Bell have been vital from beyond the arc lately. Both Arcidiacono and Bell take the majority of their shots from long range and they have been shooting better lately which explains some of Nova's success. Big man Mouphtaou Yarou also came up big with 16 boards against Syracuse, but he's been largely inconsistent this season.
So all Notre Dame has to do is stop the Wildcats from connecting on so many threes? Obviously, it's never that easy. In their last home game they let Georgetown, a poor shooting team, connect on 7-of-15 from downtown. That defense will have to pick it up against Nova with the way they are shooting right now.
The most important matchup in this game might be Jack Cooley against the big men of Nova. Cooley is averaging a double-double per game for Notre Dame this year which is what he finished with at Villanova last year going for 18 points and 13 boards in an overtime win. Nova freshman Daniel Ochefu who is 6'11" has been getting more time lately and could cause problems for Cooley. Outside of Cooley, the Fighting Irish don't have a very deep roster. Most of the scoring will come through fellow starters Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton. Senior Scott Martin who averages close to 30 minutes per game is having knee issues and won't be available in this game which hurts. Much like Nova's three-point shooters, Atkins, Grant and Connaughton can all hit the three-ball and are coming off a 9-for-19 shooting day against South Florida.
Notre Dame is at home, but the loss of Martin might rear its head in this game against a sharpshooting Villanova squad.
Predicted Score - Notre Dame 68 Villanova 64
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