(6) Villanova Wildcats (-3, 129.5 o/u) at (18) Butler Bulldogs
Tonight, the Villanova Wildcats (22-2, 9-2 Big East) and the Butler Bulldogs (18-6, 8-3 Big East) will meet for the second time this season when they square off at Hinkle Fieldhouse (6:00 p.m. Eastern).
In the first meeting, a still-undefeated Villanova downed Butler, 67-55, with four Wildcats scoring in double-figures. Villanova has dropped two games since then – both on the road (at Seton Hall and Georgetown) = but they come into tonight’s game on a five-game win streak, which includes a 74-68 road win over upstart Providence last time out.
The Friars hung tough with Villanova until late in the second half. But Josh Hart put the nail in the Providence coffin with two late three-pointers. Hart was the unlikeliest of heroes for Villanova, as he didn’t even travel with the team due to illness.
“Those two 3s were big,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said after the game. “We were getting stops for a while but we weren’t scoring. Those two 3s were incredible for a guy [Hart] that just flew up here and got here around 11:45 today.”
Like Villanova, Butler is also on a five-game win streak that has kept them within one game of the Wildcats at the top of the Big East standings.
In their last outing, the Bulldogs upended a dangerous DePaul team, 83-73. Butler’s leading scorer, Kellen Dunham (16.7 PPG), had 24 points in the win, which wasn’t as close as the final score suggests.
“This time of year, in a lot of cases, if your team is ready to play it’s because of your older guys,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “And I think we were ready to play, and we made some shots, but it got a little bit too easy for us there, we got a little bit complacent in the second half and they made a run like we thought they might. We knew it was going to be a game of runs.”
Head-to-head, Nova has won the three in a row over Butler dating back to 2013.
Recently, the Wildcats and Bulldogs have tended to play high-scoring games (at least, higher scoring than expected); the total has gone over in 16 of Villanova’s last 21 on the road, and four of Butler’s last five at home.
Consider the over (129.5) for tonight’s game.
(Photo credit: Keith Lovett [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)