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Preview: No. 1 Villanova vs. UConn

Two former Big East rivals are set to face off at high noon in Hartford.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova and UConn, two former Big East rivals, will face off in a nationally-televised Saturday matinee. They will go at it for the 65th time ever; Villanova leads the series 33-31.

Both schools last met in March 2014 in Buffalo, New York during the “Third Round” of the NCAA Tournament. 7-seed UConn upset 2-seed Villanova 77-65. Led by current NBA player Shabazz Napier, the Huskies would ultimately win that season’s national championship.

Major Keys

Time & Place: 12:00 pm ET, XL Center, Hartford, Connecticut

TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Bill Raftery)

Radio: 610 Sports WTEL AM (Ryan Fannon, Whitey Rigsby)

Gambling (via OddsShark): Villanova opened as 16-point favorites. The Wildcats are 11-6-1 against the spread this year. UConn is 7-10 against the spread.

About the Wildcats

The No. 1 Villanova Wildcats (17-1, 5-1 Big East) currently sit atop the college basketball world, even as the rest of the AP Top 25 poll constantly shuffles. They will head to Connecticut’s home-away-from-home looking to maintain their poll position.

The Wildcats’ success is spurred by being the second-most efficient offense in the country. According to College Basketball Reference, ‘Nova averages 124.1 points per 100 possessions. They are bested only by Duke’s 124.6 points per 100 possessions.

This is the last game of a three-game road trip for Villanova. They will look to bring in the momentum from their 88-56 thrashing of Georgetown in Washington, DC. Jalen Brunson (along with seven assists) and Mikal Bridges matched their season scoring averages by dropping 18 and 17 points, respectively. Those two have been a dynamic junior duo for Villanova, and will certainly factor big into Saturday’s matchup.

About the other guys

The Connecticut Huskies (10-8, 3-3 American) are not the team your parents, or even siblings, used to watch on TV. They are five years removed from the Big East, and haven’t been their normal, formidable selves in about two seasons.

The Huskies lost key seniors Amida Brimah, Kentan Facey, and Rodney Purvis to graduation over the summer. They’ve also lost Alterique Gilbert for another season, a shoulder injury sidelining him after only six games. Gilbert has only played nine total games with the program over two seasons.

In the face of that adversity, junior guards Jalen Adams and Terry Larrier have shouldered much of the scoring load. Adams paces the team with 18.5 points per game while Larrier averages 15.3 points per game.

However, Larrier sat out UConn’s last game, a 73-49 loss at Memphis, due to headaches. Head coach Kevin Ollie says that he will be a game-time decision for Saturday’s matchup.