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Villanova, DePaul open Big East season with tilt in Chicago

The Blue Demons welcome the #1 team in the land to Wintrust Arena.

Depaul v Villanova Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images


Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Watch Online: You can access CBSSN at this link. The following providers have CBS Sports Network available to watch online:

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12-0 (8-3-1 ATS) Records 7-5 (7-4-1 ATS)
#1 AP, #1 Coaches, #1 KenPom Rankings #107 KenPom
Jalen Brunson (18.3 PPG) Leading Scorer Max Strus (17.2 PPG)
Jalen Brunson (5.0 APG) Leading Assister Eli Cain (3.7 APG)
Omari Spellman (7.8 RPG) Leading Rebounder Tre'Darius McCallum (5.8 RPG)
59.5% (Off.) | 48.2% (Def.) eFG% 48.3% (Off.) | 49.4% (Def.)
15.6% (Off.) | 20.7% (Def.) Turnover% 16.0% (Off.) | 23.2% (Def.)
31.0% (Off.) | 24.3% (Def.) Rebounding% 32.5% (Off.) | 31.4% (Def.)
32.8% (Off.) | 20.7% (Def.) Free Throw Rate 30.3% (Off.) | 32.2% (Def.)
57.3% (Off.) | 48.7% (Def.) 2PT FG% 48.6% (Off.) | 43.0% (Def.)
41.6% (Off.) | 31.5% (Def.) 3PT FG% 31.8% (Off.) | 38.0% (Def.)
75.5% FT% 72.7%


(via OddsShark)

Spread: Villanova opened as a 15-point favorite. The line jumped up to 15.5.

O/U: The total for Villanova-DePaul is set at 142.5.

At long last, the Big East season is finally here.

The conference opens up shop on Wednesday with three games on the docket. Two of which will be played within 94 miles of each other. While a lot of attention will be placed on the offensive explosion going on in Milwaukee, the top team in the land is in the Windy City. The Villanova Wildcats, your reigning, defending, back-to-back-to-back-to-back Big East regular season champions begin their quest for an unprecedented fifth straight conference title. They will be doing so against the seemingly improved DePaul Blue Demons.

In the last four years, these two teams couldn’t possibly be on more opposite ends of the spectrum. As we mentioned, Villanova has topped the Big East in each of the last four years. They’ve never even gone so far as to split a conference title. No, they’ve had sole possession of the top spot in the Big East. DePaul, meanwhile, has maintained a habitat in the cellar. They have finished 10th, 8th, 9th, and 10th since the reformatted conference opened its doors in the 2013-14 campaign. They have 14 victories against conference opponents. Villanova has... 63.

That’s all in the past, though. So far, these two teams have trudged on similar paths. ‘Nova is 12-0, the nation’s best team in the AP poll, USA TODAY poll, and tops the KenPom chart. DePaul is 7-5, having faced five teams in the KenPom Top 100. They have lost to them all, but of course, it’s a credit to them for scheduling hard in the first place. To their credit, they have no bad losses. They have taken care of business against the teams they were supposed to beat. Their average MOV in their wins this year is 18.85. Not too shabby. They have no single-digit wins, and own three of 24+ points and four of 17+.

To their credit, they’ve sharpened up a bit defensively. Their 3-point defense could be a lot better, but otherwise, there’s nothing really that’s super glaring, other than their inability to control boards on defense. They’ve competed hard against some of the better teams in the country, but mistakes have doomed them a bit.

That, obviously, cannot afford to happen against the machine that is Villanova. The Wildcats offer up hardly any weaknesses at all. They own the nation’s second-best mark in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and eighth-best in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. They shoot the hell out of the ball inside and out, and do well enough defensively. They play mistake-free most of the time, and are deft at keeping teams off the free throw line. Six players own 3-point percentages of at least 40 percent, three of at least 46, and two at or over 50 percent. You run out of superlatives, because from top-to-bottom, there’s no team quite like them right now in the country.

It’s probably a safe bet that Jalen Brunson will shine on Wednesday night. The Lincolnshire native has been as advertised this year and has played well at DePaul the past two years. In two games against the Blue Demons, Brunson has averaged 14.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting a clean 50 percent on 16 attempts. He’s shot 10-11 on free throws and committed only two turnovers in 58 minutes.

For DePaul, we’ll see if DII transfer Max Strus can keep his hot shooting going. Strus has averaged 23.0 points per game over his last four contests, in which the Blue Demons have gone 3-1. In that span, Strus has shot 33-of-63, good for a mark of 52.3 percent. Villanova will undoubtedly be one of the best defenses he faces all year, and one of the best he’s faced this season so far. He’ll be in for a tough task, that much is for sure.