Villanova is back home, but it comes on the heels of three-straight losses and more than likely the end of its Big East regular-season title hopes. That’s because Marquette is 1.5 Games ahead and even a Villanova win here would only lead to a possible tie at the top of the conference. Either way, this should be another fun Game after the Golden Eagles won the first meeting 66-65.
Marquette was ahead almost that entire Game and then things got a little too close in the final minutes, but it still hung on. The Eagles won by surprisingly getting more out of their perimeter guys as Markus Howard and Sacar Anim combined for 56 points. Howard is a great player and Anim has had some good performances as of late, but they can’t bank on that kind of Game again. Someone else will need to step up for Marquette if it wants to win on the road, whether that’s one of the Hauser brothers or Theo John down low.
As for Villanova, it still ranks as the most-efficient offense in the conference, but the threes haven’t fallen in recent losses and may not again versus the most-efficient defense in the conference. The Wildcats need to figure out how to win when they don’t shoot well because that’s been their main issue. They went 9-for-29 from deep in the first meeting and while Phil Booth and Eric Paschall combined for 36 points, it wasn’t enough. Playing at home, the Wildcats should get more production out of everyone else, whether that’s Saddiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, or Collin Gillespie on the perimeter. Gillespie was one of the bigger disappointments in the first meeting and he’s been in a bit of a funk since dropping 30 points on Georgetown at the beginning of the month. In fact, he’s gone just 6-for-31 from three in the last five Games. For Villanova to win Games again, he has to turn that number around because Booth and Paschall can’t do everything. The other question will be if Booth and Gillespie can step up to the table and limit Howard at all. They were scorched in the first meeting, but that probably won’t happen again, especially after Providence held Howard to 2-for-12 shooting in Saturday’s Game.
Unfortunately for Villanova, Marquette still has the better-rounded team that doesn’t rely entirely on threes. When Howard is off his Game, Sam Hauser (15.2 ppg) and Joey Hauser (10.0 ppg) usually pick things up, seen in the recent win over Providence as they combined for 33 points. Also if needed, Theo John and Ed Morrow can be factors down low, while Anim has seen his offensive production go up with at least 11 points in five of the last six Games.
Villanova is at home so it gets the edge, but it still has to play better. The hope is that Howard doesn’t go unconscious again and someone like Gillespie or Booth can find his shooting stroke. Even then, the Golden Eagles should stick around the entire way, similar to the previous meeting, and that should mean another close Game to the end. However, the Wildcats still haven’t lost at home in Big East play and most of the money will be on them because of that.
Our Pick – Marquette +5