Villanova can assure itself a share of the Big East crown, at minimum, with a win over Butler on Sunday, when the league foes square off in a city where the No. 8 Wildcats hope to be spending a lot of time over the coming weeks. Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse is among the venues that will host the NCAA Tournament in Indiana, but the Bulldogs (8-13, 7-11 Big East) will be hoping to defend their home court in their final home game of the season before the arena becomes a neutral site for postseason use.
The Wildcats (15-3, 10-2) won the first meeting 85-66 on Dec. 16, but this Butler team has evolved quite a bit since then and showed its chops in a 61-52 win over Seton Hall on Wednesday. The Bulldogs have also knocked off Creighton since their first loss to Villanova, which was just Butler's second game of the season.
This could be a trap game for the Wildcats if they aren't careful. With a rematch against No. 13 Creighton looming on Wednesday, they will need a strong effort to avoid an upset like the only they suffered on Feb. 3 against St. John's. Villanova is projected as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament according to the latest Bracketology from Jerry Palm, and this is a game that a team with such a pedigree should be able to handle.
- When: Sunday, 12 p.m. ET
- Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana
- TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
- OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Villanova: All five of Villanova's starters average 10 or more points per game, but the Wildcats are led by sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and senior guard Collin Gillespie. If there's a roster issue with this team, it's probably depth. Junior forwards Cole Swider and Brandon Slater are consistent contributors off the bench, but the Wildcats don't go much deeper than that and have no true guards to rotate in. That's why Gillespie is playing 34.3 minutes per game. On the rare occasions he's struggled, the Wildcats have struggled as well. The Wildcats will also need to tighten things up defensively before the NCAA Tournament as they rank just 66th in adjusted defensive efficiency at KenPom.
Butler: When Butler lost to Villanova on Dec. 16 in just its second game of the season, Myles Tate played just four minutes, while Bryce Golden and Bo Hodges did not play at all. All three have been frequent starters when eligible/healthy and could make the scouting report look a lot different for Villanova this time (although Hodges has missed the last two games with an injury). This season has been a struggle for the Bulldogs after the graduation of leading scorers Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott from last year's 22-9 team that peaked at No. 5 in the AP poll. But Tate and second-leading scorer Chuck Harris are both freshmen who have looked like building blocks for the future this season.
Game prediction, pick
It's time for Villanova to start hitting on all cylinders, and the Wildcats are coming off an impressive 23-point win over a St. John's team that it had lost to earlier this month. They should be able to handle Butler on the Bulldogs' senior day. Prediction: Villanova 82, Butler 68
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