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College Basketball Betting Preview: Villanova Wildcats at Butler Bulldogs

CBB

One of the more intriguing midweek matchups in NCAAB action is an important Big East clash between Villanova and Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Let’s take a look at these two teams, how they have fared so far, and what we might expect tonight. 

Butler is listed as a 2.5-point home favorite for this game, which is somewhat unsurprising considering how difficult a place Hinkle Fieldhouse is for opposing teams. Butler’s arena became a fortress under now-Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens, and current Butler boss Lavell Jordan has fared well himself. Since taking over in 2017, Jordan is 36-9 SU at home and 26-18 ATS. However, the team has somewhat underperformed at home of late. Butler is 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS in its last three home games. These include a 78-70 defeat to Seton Hall, a four-point overtime win against Marquette, and last Saturday’s disappointing 65-61 loss to Providence. Since mid-January, the Bulldogs have seriously struggled. After starting the year 15-1, Butler has since lost four out of its last six games. The Bulldogs are 2-4 ATS in that stretch. 

Butler’s recent downturn in form includes a January 21 game at Villanova. The Wildcats won the game comfortably, 76-61. Jay Wright’s group built a ten-point halftime lead and were never really threatened in the final frame. Villanova out-rebounded Butler 38-34 and committed only six turnovers. Butler struggled to defend cleanly, committing 20 fouls and giving Villanova 23 free throws, of which the Wildcats converted 21. 76 points is a strong total against a defense as good as Butler’s, which ranks 23rd-nationally in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency rankings. However, the box score suggests there was nothing fluky about it. Villanova only shot 37.7% from the field, and while the Wildcats managed to go 9-for-25 from distance, a 36% three-point success rate is hardly an outlier, considering the team shoots 34.9% on the year.

In addition to this recent matchup, Villanova has a solid series history to fall back on here. Since Lavell Jordan has taken over at Butler, Jay Wright has had his number. The Villanova head coach is 5-1 SU and ATS against Jordan, and has won five straight encounters. Jordan is no slouch, but Wright is one of the very best coaches in the nation, and Jordan has struggled to figure him out.  

Both teams are in bounce-back spots here, with Butler having lost to Providence, and Villanova coming off a double-digit loss to Creighton. However, Villanova should still feel good despite a 76-61 loss to the Blue Jays. The Wildcats lost handily, but Creighton played to something like the best of its abilities on the night, shooting 51% from the field and connecting on 11-of-22 three-point attempts. The Wildcats, themselves a good three-point shooting team, went only 7-for-26. A correction here is more than likely. Butler, meanwhile have been without key cog Aaron Thompson. The point guard is a leader of this Butler team, and his impact is unquestionable. The Bulldogs are scoring a massive 20.0 points per 100 possession more when Thompson is on the floor. Thompson is absolutely critical to Butler’s defense. He ranks in the 96th-percentile nationwide, giving up a paltry 0.57 PPP. If he is unable to go, this becomes a very good spot for the Wildcats, whose plethora of talented guards should have even more space to operate. 

One area of concern for Villanova is in pick and roll defense. The team struggles badly here, ranking 340th in points per possession allowed. Butler’s pick and roll attack is solid, ranking 76th in the nation in points per possession. Andre Thompson is valuable here as well though, as the team’s starting point guard, who ranks in the 73rd-percentile nationwide in PPP in the pick and roll. 

That said, Villanova should still be able to find success. The Wildcats will likely be able to control the transition offense of the Bulldogs, and although Butler’s defense is undoubtedly good, the Wildcats are built to exploit its few weaknesses. The toughest action for the Bulldogs to defend efficiently this season has been in spot up situations, where Butler ranks only in the 58th-percentile, surrendering 0.86 PPP. Here, the Villanova offense excels, ranking in the 94th-percentile, scoring 1.04 PPP. Interestingly the team ranks only in the 18th-percentile when it comes to unguarded catch-and-shoot situations, so this number could well improve further still.  

Ultimately, the points seem too good to turn down here. Butler is dealing with a key injury, and have gone off the boil over the last couple of weeks. Villanova is coming off a loss, but clearly has a higher ceiling than the Bulldogs. Plus, it never hurts to side with Jay Wright. Since 2017, Wright and Villanova are 59-37-1 ATS, the best mark in the Big East. During that span, they are also 5-1 ATS as a road underdog, with a solid average cover margin of +4.3.