It was a rare nonconference game in February for the Villanova Wildcats this past Wednesday against the Temple Owls. Many predicted it would be a tough test for the Wildcats as they were coming off two cupcake games against St.John's and DePaul and Temple is a team that doesn't go away lightly, not to mention Big 5 games can be unpredictable. But the Wildcats went on the road and took care of business with an 83-67 victory for their sixth straight win. Behind Jalen Brunson's 25 points, 'Nova improved to 23-3 overall with a conference record of 12-1, good enough for the top in the BIG EAST standings. As the #1 team in the nation and a potential #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Villanova is held to some high standards. After that tough OT loss to Providence a while ago, 'Nova have picked up the pace and have reeled off six quick wins. Still the best in the BIG EAST and just in time for their clash against Xavier.
The Butler Bulldogs bounced back from their loss to Xavier with an 88-75 win over Creighton. It was another big game from Kelan Martin, who is quickly becoming Butler's best player. Starting as a virtual unknown at the beginning of the season, Martin has worked his way to becoming one of the most feared sixth men in college basketball and now he is being rewarded for his efforts. The win over the Bluejays puts Butler 6th in the BIG EAST standings with a 18-8 overall record, but they have a disappointing 7-7 conference record. Butler are on the bubble in terms of getting into the NCAA Tournament and the win over Creighton helped but they still need one more quality win. Maybe this game against Villanova could be the game that seals Butler's entrance to the big dance.
It will be a huge clash for Villanova next week as they take on #8 Xavier in the battle of the top teams in the conference and then face Marquette next weekend. Butler will have a tougher week ahead of them after this game as they take on Georgetown and Seton Hall, two teams that could give the Bulldogs trouble.
How to watch, listen, or stream
Game Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: WTEL 610 AM (Villanova) || WFNI ESPN 1070 AM and The Fan 93.5 FM (Butler)
Stream: FOX Sports Go (Where available)
Odds: Villanova enters this game as a 10.5 point favorite (via Oddsshark.com)
Record ATS: Villanova (14-11) || Butler (12-13-1)
O/U: The O/U opened at 144
Three things to watch
1. Can Butler's offense keep it up?
Butler's offense has been on fire the past five games as they have scored more than 80 points per game in that stretch. The Butler offense exploded in the second half against Creighton as they scored 52 points in the half in what was a big win for the Bulldogs. For a Butler team that averages 80.8 points per game, good for 25th in the country, they will look to pick apart a 'Nova defense that only allows 61.3 points per game.
2. Which youngster will have the biggest impact?
Both Jalen Brunson (freshman) and Kelan Martin (sophmore) will be key players for their respective teams and will look to continue their impressive form on the offensive end. Both of them led their respective teams in scoring in their last game and both are considered X-factors. The pressure will be more on Martin as he leads the team in scoring with 16.2 points per game and has been their best player for the stretch of the season.
3. Can the Bulldogs pull off the upset?
Villanova has been blowing out teams left and right, but if there is a team that knows anything about upset it's Butler. With a dangerous offense that has the ability to get hot quickly from the field and great offensive players to complement Martin like Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham, this has the makings of a potential upset. But Villanova should still be heavily favored in this game.