Nova on the ropes?


You would have to believe so by the way they are playing and evidently other actions off the court. Villanova (25-7, 18-13 ATS) has won three of their previous eight games, covering the spread twice (one was by a single point). The big question about the Wildcats seems to be commitment.

Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher were the latest players late in the season to be a part of coach Jay Wright’s “teaching points”, starting the a NCAA game on the bench. Does this appear to be a team hungry to return to the Final Four?

Villanova was a 17-point favorite over No. 15 Robert Morris and needed five extra minutes to put away the Colonials 73-70. Nova’s biggest lead of the game was six points as they shot 35.3 percent as a team and were 6-22 from behind the arc and at the end of the contest, one team got a standing ovation and it wasn’t Villanova. The Wildcats will have to work hard to keep 8-1 ATS record in road games playing their second game in three days over the last two seasons.

St. Mary’s (27-5, 21-9-1 ATS) is the opponent out of the 10th seed slot and they are very capable at 13-3 and 12-4 ATS on the road. After losing consecutive road games at Gonzaga and Portland in the middle of February and allowing 80 points in each, coach Randy Bennett made it point to reconstruct St. Mary’s practices, starting each one with defensive focus. This new strategy has work emphatically, as the Gaels have rattled off six straight wins and five covers.

Another big factor in St. Mary’s success and it big, literally, is the domination of 6’11 center Omar Samhan. He tore up the Richmond defense with his 29 points and 12 rebounds, leading the way in comfortable 80-71 upset of the Spiders. Samhan has enjoyed more freedom in the low blocks as point guard Mickey McConnell and freshman guard Matthew Dellavedova have shot the rock with greater effectiveness deep. St. Mary’s is 10-3 ATS away from home after two or more wins this season.

Villanova is five-point favorite with total of 153.5 at, which should mean a high scoring affair. The Wildcats may be 15-6 ATS versus offensive teams scoring 77 or more points a game, but 10-seeds have won outright 40 percent of the time against No. 2’s if they average better than 72 points a game and if they outscore opponents by at least five points per contest (St. Mary’s at 13.5). The Gaels are 12-3 ATS on the road after scoring 80 or more points.

This is the opening game on Saturday slated for 1:05 Eastern and Villanova is 17-4 UNDER after failing to cover the spread in three or more consecutive games.


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