UConn vs. Villanova Prediction: Expect an Old School Big East Rock Fight

College basketball expert Mike Spector offers his best bet for a pivotal Big East matchup between Connecticut and Villanova.
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UConn vs. Villanova Prediction: Expect an Old School Big East Rock Fight

The rivalry between Connecticut and Villanova took a four-year hiatus from 2013-17 when the Huskies became members of the AAC. However, the Huskies are back as members of the Big East, which means we have annual games between these longtime rivals to once again look forward to.

In the Big East Preseason Poll, Villanova and UConn were picked to finish in first and second place, respectively, and the Huskies were the only team besides the Wildcats to earn a first-place vote. These teams have met once in each of the last four years, with Villanova winning every game by at least six points. 

Will Villanova win their fifth straight game in this series, or will Connecticut earn a statement win and remain in contention for the Big East regular season crown? Here are our picks and predictions for the Big East battle between Connecticut and Villanova.

Click here for UConn vs Villanova odds

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UConn vs. Villanova Prediction

Connecticut (15-5, 6-3) is tied with Villanova in the loss column in conference play but has played three fewer games due to some COVID-19 postponements. UConn just had a five-game winning streak snapped in their last game by Creighton, a 59-55 home loss. The 55-point total was the Huskies’ third-lowest scoring output of the season, and they are now 1-4 in games where they score fewer than 70 points.

Villanova (16-6, 9-3) is also coming off a loss in their last game, an 83-73 road loss to Marquette. The Golden Eagles did something not many teams in the Big East have been able to do lately in the Jay Wright era: sweep the Wildcats in the regular season. Wright and the ‘Cats had been 14-1 in the last eight seasons against conference teams they lost to in the previous meeting.

Villanova was undone by an uncharacteristically leaky defense against Marquette. The Golden Eagles scored 46 points in the first half, which was the most first-half points allowed by the Wildcats since 2020. 

We are not as concerned about Villanova’s defense heading into this matchup against UConn, considering the Wildcats had allowed an average of 60.1 PPG on the season before their loss to Marquette. However, what is concerning is the Wildcats’ poor 3-point shooting, as they started 5-for-8 against Marquette and then finished with five makes in their final 26 3-point attempts, with two of those coming in the final minute. To make matters worse, Jay Wright revealed that second-leading scorer Justin Moore (15.1 PPG) is questionable with an ankle injury. If Moore cannot play, or is limited, Villanova does not have nearly the same ceiling offensively as when he is healthy.

Under head coach Danny Hurley, UConn has had tremendous success defensively against Villanova. The Huskies held the Wildcats to 68 points last year, with the Wildcats shooting 5-of-22 from deep. And the year prior, Villanova scored just 61 points against Connecticut, with the Huskies’ elite length making it impossible for Villanova to finish at the rim (30.8% inside the arc). Meanwhile, the Huskies have averaged just 57.5 points themselves in the last two matchups, as Jay Wright equally has UConn’s number on the defensive end.

Everything is pointing to this game being another rock fight. Villanova plays at the third-slowest pace in Division I, so possessions will be limited. And each of these teams ranks in the top 25 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency (per KenPom) and in the top three in the conference. 

UConn has the length on the perimeter to frustrate Villanova’s sharp-shooting guards, and the Wildcats have the toughness to battle the Huskies bigs and not allow them to control the backboards. As a result, this game will have an old-school Big East feel, and the first team to 60 points may take this contest.

UConn vs. Villanova Line Movement

UConn vs. Villanova Pick

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Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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