After beating a tough West Virginia team in the Sweet Sixteen, only one more Big-12 foe remains between Villanova and its second Final Four appearance in the last three seasons.
The Wildcats fought tooth and nail against the Mountaineers on Friday night in Boston. The first half was high-scoring, entertaining and saw Villanova take a two-point lead into the break.
West Virginia landed the first punch in the second and had a five-point lead as the last ten minutes approached. But Villanova went on a run and buried three after three to take the lead and eventually stretch it out enough to cover easily in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.
Texas Tech finished the Big-12 regular season tied with West Virginia but was awarded a higher seed in the East Region. Even so, the Raiders are even bigger underdogs than the Mountaineers were against Villanova and will get 6.5 in Sunday afternoon’s tilt.
We’ve successfully backed Villanova to cover its last two games and both games have been similar in the sense that they were close in the first half before Villanova blew everything up in the second. Teams have to work so hard to just play with Villanova, that 40 minutes is just too much to ask for.
I don’t see how anything will be different in this game. Texas Tech is a rather underwhelming opponent, if you ask me. The Raiders have a balanced scoring attack and hard-nosed defense with good rebounding, but they do nothing tremendously well. In a lot of ways, they are similar to the Wildcats, just to a lesser extent.
It is easy to overlook the great season Keenan Evans has had, though. Evans looked fully healthy after that worrisome toe injury late in the conference regular season schedule. He scored 23 against Stephen F. Austin, 22 against Florida and 16 against Purdue.
He’s just 6’3″ so Jalen Brunson shouldn’t have any problem handling his size. He is a different guard than Jevon Carter, however, and many of the other players Brunson had defended this season because Evans operates mostly off-ball. Brunson’s strength as a defender is his ball pressure but he’s such a smart opponent that I don’t think a small wrinkle like this one will give him much trouble.
With Brunson locking down Evans, Texas Tech could be in for a tough afternoon, offensively. And there just isn’t any way to beat Villanova if you are having trouble scoring the ball.
Omari Spellman was the star in the Sweet 16 win over West Virginia and with him playing so confidently in the middle, the only team that I can see beating Villanova that’s left in the field is Duke. This should be another double-digit win for ‘Nova.
Free Pick: Villanova -6.5