The Villanova Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks are no stranger to one another. They, in fact, will have met at one point or another in each of the last three seasons and four of the last five once Saturday comes and goes. ‘Nova and Jay Wright have the advantage, a 2-1 record over Bill Self’s Jayhawks. But that one loss is still very fresh in the minds of the Wildcats who were at Allen Fieldhouse last year.
Kansas nipped Villanova 74-71 at the Phog in Lawrence last December 15. Now on December 21, the ‘Cats and Jayhawks are fixing to square off at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Kansas hasn’t made a trip out to Philly since January 22, 2005, when the Wildcats roared through the Jayhawks, 83-62. So it’s nearly been 15 years since KU has made such a trip. But it would probably be a bit of a surprise if that result ensued Saturday.
Kansas lost their opener to the Duke Blue Devils, but they’ve been allergic to the loss column ever since. They have ripped off nine straight victories since then. They’ve beaten five KenPomp Top 100 teams since then. That list includes the UNC Greensboro Spartans, the East Tennessee State Buccaneers, the BYU Cougars, the Colorado Buffaloes and the Dayton Flyers. The win over Dayton is most impressive, as the Flyers currently rank 12th on KenPom as of writing. Kansas has blazed through every task so far with the same conclusion every time, and they look like a well-oiled machine, per usual.
As for Villanova, they are 8-2 on the year so far. The Wildcats have just one KenPom Top 100 win to speak of, that being an 83-76 twin over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Myrtle Beach. They got dumptrucked by the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus on November 13, and then lost by nine points to the Baylor Bears in Myrtle Beach. To be fair though, they come into the game with four consecutive victories under their belt. They’ve defeated the La Salle Explorers, Penn Quakers, Saint Joseph’s Hawks and Delaware Blue Hens. Their list of victories may not be as impressive, but they’ve beaten some quality teams along the way.
I would expect this game to be a close one. While I think KU will have the best player on the floor in Devon Dotson, the Wildcats can pack a punch themselves. They have been a quality team from outside, especially Cole Swider, Saddiq Bey and Justin Moore, who all lead the team in 3-point FG percentage. If even two of those three are hitting from deep, they’ll be able to match KU’s prodigiousness from downtown. The Jayhawks rank third in the nation right now in 3PT FG%, so Villanova will no doubt have to rely on the outside game to pick up the win here. I don’t know if they will, but I have a hunch this will be a close one.
HOW TO WATCH
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Spread: Kansas -1.5
Moneyline: Kansas -125 | Villanova +102