# 20 UCONN Huskies (23-8) vs #8 Villanova Wildcats (24-7)
Big East Tournament Semi-Finals
Friday, March 11th @ Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
How to Watch:
9:00 ET on Fox Sports One (FS1)
How to Bet:
Villanova – 2.5, O/U 131.5
UCONN: 13-17-1 ATS, 3-2 ATS at a neutral site, 18-13 O/U
Villanova: 15-14-2 ATS, 3-2 ATS at a neutral site, 16-14-1 O/U
- RPI: Villanova is 6th in Division I (0.6394), UCONN is 23rd (0.604)
- Strength of Schedule Rank: Villanova (16th), UCONN (45th)
- Strength of Record Rank: Villanova (12th), UCONN (20th)
- Pace of play: Villanova is 333rd in possessions per game, UCONN is 157th
What to Watch For:
These teams met just over two weeks ago, with UCONN pulling off a 71-69 victory at home, thanks to 20 points and six rebounds from Adama Sanogo and a clutch driving layup from R.J. Cole to put the Huskies up with just five seconds to play. That allowed for UCONN to split the season series after falling to Villanova 85-74 on the road in early February.
Villanova hasn’t lost a game since the loss to UCONN and is 8-2 in their last ten games, averaging 75.8 points per game. Since UCONN’s early loss to Villanova on February 5th, it has also gone 8-2 over its last ten games, averaging 70.9 points per game. UCONN has also had the more comfortable run to this point in the Big East tournament, beating DePaul 75-68 in its first game and topping Seton Hall 62-52 in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Vilanova blew out Butler in their first game but had to rely on a scrappy comeback to top St. John’s 66-65 in the quarter-finals.
Despite Villanova scoring 85 points the first time these two teams met, we can likely expect a hard-fought defensive battle this time around. The Wildcats are 33rd in the nation in team defense, allowing only 63.7 points per game, while the Huskies rank 59th and allow just 65.2 points per game. When you pair that with the slower pace that both of these offenses like to operate at, you can see how this game could turn into a grind. However, it should be noted that both games these two teams have played have finished above the over/under line set for tonight, so Vegas is clearly betting on tournament fatigue setting in.
As with most Jay Wright teams, Villanova is solid from behind the arc. They shoot the 44th most three-pointers per game but make the 25th most per game in the nation, thanks to shooting 36.4% from deep as a team. That could be a major deciding factor in this game since UCONN ranks 245th in the nation, allowing opponents to shoot 34.6% from deep. However, they only give up 6.4 made threes per game (65th in the nation) thanks to the slower pace of their games, but if the Wildcats can make the most of the three-point opportunities they get, it could give them a big edge in tonight’s game.
For UCONN to win this game, they’re not only going to need to contain Villanova’s shooters but also control the glass. The Huskies are the 6th-ranked rebounding team in the nation, averaging 40.9 rebounds a game, while Villanova ranks 198th with 35 boards a game. UCONN is also the 3rd-best team in the country when it comes to offensive rebounds, snagging 13.9 per game, so if they are able to get a lot of second-chance shots against a Villanova team that is not a consistent rebounding bunch, that could help put the Huskies over the top.
If the game is tight down the stretch though, Villanova could have a major advantage since they are the best free-throwing shooting team in the country, making 82.6% as a team from the charity stripe. We know that often comes in handy during tournament play.
Dan Hurley: 73-45 (.619) at UCONN, no Big East Reg. Season titles, 1 NCAA appearance in 3 years.
Jay Wright: 514-196 (.724) at Villanova, 8 Big East Reg. Season titles, 4 conference tournament titles, 15 NCAA appearances, and 2 championships in 21 yrs
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Why it Matters:
This game really only has significance as the team’s battle for the Big East Conference Tournament crown. Each team is locked into an NCAA tournament bid regardless of the outcome of this game, so this comes down to bragging rights and potential seeding for the Big Dance.
Players to Know:
Collin Gillespie, Villanova Guard, Senior
Per game stats: 16.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 42.8% 3PT
It wouldn’t be March if we weren’t talking about a veteran, sharp-shooting Villanova guard. Gillespie is certainly a sharpshooter, topping 40% from behind the arc for the first time in his career. He’s a solid playmaker as well, leading the team in assists per game and tied for the team lead in steals. He’s the exact type of veteran leader that shines in March, even if the storied NBA career never follows.
Adama Sanogo, UCONN Forward, Sophomore
Per game stats: 14.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 51.1 FG%
If Villanova is known for its sharpshooting veterans, then UCONN is certainly known for athletic but slightly undersized big men. At 6’9″ Sanogo is a solid shot-blocker and decent low post scorer who has lots of success off motion or pick and roll. He’s not a great shooter and can sometimes get beat by quicker big men, but he had success against Villanova last time out and has 11 rebounds in each of the first two games of the Big East tournament.
Tyrese Martin, UCONN Guard, Senior
Per game stats: 13.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 42 3PT%
Martin has been a force for UCONN through the first two games of the tournament, averaging 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists per game in the victories over Seton Hall and DePaul. He’s really improved his shooting this year and is a strong defender, which could make him a “three-and-D” type of player at the next level. However, a big knock against him is that he can be too passive on offense, so the Huskies will definitely need him to attack the basket if they’re going to pull out a victory.