New York City’s Madison Square Garden hosts the Big East Tournament this week, and the conference has a chance to advance a record 11 teams to the upcoming NCAA
There are a couple of interesting early matchups in the bracket, with lowly South Florida (9-22 straight up, 15-13-1 against the spread) hoping to upset a struggling Villanova (21-10 SU, 11-16-1 ATS) squad.
The Big East Conference is so strong that the Wildcats are a top-25 team nationally, but just a 10th-seed entering Madison Square Garden. The Bulls are the 15th-seeded team in the 16-team conference, and their season will be over with the next loss.
Villanova travels to the Big Apple hoping to get back on the winning track after losing its last four games SU to finish the regular season. The Wildcats are also a dismal 1-11 ATS their last 12 games, and haven’t covered a contest since beating West Virginia Feb. 5 at home.
Villanova concluded its regular season with Saturday’s setback to Pittsburgh as a 9 ½-point road underdog, 60-50. The combined 110 points never seriously threatened the 134 ½-point closing total, ending a string of back-to-back ‘over’ outings.
The Wildcats were on the short end of rebounding (30-22) and assists (12-4), while shooting a dismal 37 percent (19-of-51) from the field and 32 percent (7-of-22) from behind the arc. Guard Maalik Wayns led all scorers with 27 points on 9-of-19 shooting, but he was the only Villanova player to reach double digits in scoring. Guard Corey Fisher provided seven in the setback, while forward Antonio Pena added six and three rebounds.
South Florida wrapped up its regular season with consecutive setbacks SU and ATS, and was listed as a double-digit underdog in both matchups. The Bulls fell to St. John’s Saturday as an 11 ½-point road underdog, 72-56, while the combined 128 points slithered ‘over’ the 127 ½-point closing total.
South Florida actually led by two points at halftime, 32-30, before getting dominated in the second half, 42-24. The Bulls were on the short end of rebounds (32-23) and turnovers (18-12), while shooting 41 percent (19-of-46) from the field and 23 percent (3-of-13) from 3-point land.
Forward Augustus Gilchrist paced the offense with 16 points and four rebounds, while guard Shaun Noriega had 14. Forward Ron Anderson contributed 13 and six in the setback, while forward Jarrid Famous had 10.
Villanova is 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS the previous five encounters with South Florida. The Wildcats won the lone encounter this season Jan. 6 as a 7 ½-point road favorite, 83-71, while the combined 154 points soared ‘over’ the 128-point closing total.
Villanova guard Corey Stokes is ‘questionable’ against the Bulls due to an injured hamstring, while guard Dallas Ouano (knee) is ‘out’ indefinitely. The Wildcats are presently projected to be a seventh seed for the NCAA Tournament unless the recent freefall continues.
South Florida has seen the ‘under’ go 8-3 its last 11 games overall. Outside of two SU victories over last-place DePaul, the Bulls haven’t won a game since Jan. 16 at home versus Providence.
ESPNU will provide coverage of Tuesday’s tipoff beginning at 4:00 p.m. PT. The winner of this contest will advance to Wednesday’s game against seventh-seed Cincinnati.