The Big East has been as unpredictable a conference as any in college basketball this season. Traditionally, a powerhouse, the only clear dominant team are the Villanova Wildcats. Their record will be tested with a difficult road trip to face the Providence Friars on Wednesday night.
The Providence Friars currently sit third in the conference and have just come off one of the more confusing stretches of games on their schedule. On the last Saturday of January they suffered a tough road loss to St John’s, they redeemed themselves by upsetting Georgetown the following Thursday, but bounced back again at the weekend with a loss at Xavier. Still, coach Ed Cooley can take solace in the competitiveness of his team with all three games being decided by single digits.
The Friars are a team with plenty of length, they rebound the basketball well and play pretty good defense. They are led offensively by forward LeDontae Henton, who is the conference’s leading scorer averaging 20,4 points per game. Sophomore guard Kris Dunn runs the offense and he is also averaging more than 15 points per game on a team that doesn’t possess a tremendous amount of fire power in terms of depth, but has a couple of developing pieces. The most promising of those is freshman forward Ben Bentil, who has tallied 16 points in each of his past two contests.
Villanova enter this game #6 in the NCAA rankings and with the opportunity to seize control of the Big East. However, the Wildcats have been far more vulnerable away from home. In Philadelphia, Jay Wright’s team are 14-0, while on the road they are 8-2, and just 2-2 in conference play. Those losses came in overtime at Seton Hall and in a blowout against the Hoyas.
Much of the rest of their season will be played on the road. They still must travel to Butler, Marquette, Creighton and Xavier in conference play.
The 2014-15 Wildcats are a typical Wright team. They play small ball and rely upon a set of experienced guards. This team is led by junior Darrun Hilliard II and Ryan Arcidiacono. JayVaughn Pinkston is a relevant piece on the front court as well. The experience is definitely there for the Wildcats to enjoy a comfortable roll down the stretch, but at times there is a question mark over the offensive explosiveness of this group.
Betting Preview: Villanova (-4.5) at Providence
The Wildcats have won most of their Big East games by at least five points, most of the time by an even greater margin, but this game feels tougher. The Friars have great size on their front court, some scoring ability and they need a win to stay relevant and keep the Big East alive. It’s a difficult result to call, but a tighter game than five points is a good betting option.
The Pick: Providence (+4,5) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 24-17