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March Madness East Regional Odds: Villanova vs The Field

Purdue Boilermakers(28-6) @ Villanova Wildcats(30-4)

  • Where: TD Garden. Boston, MA
  • When: March 15, 2018 6:50 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Villanova (EVEN), Purdue (+270), West Virginia (+650), Texas Tech (+800), Wichita State (+800), Florida (+1800), Virginia Tech (+3000), Alabama (+4000), Butler (+4500), Arkansas (+5000), UCLA (+5000)

2 weeks ago, Villanova was not a prohibitive favorite to advance deep into the 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket. Now, they’re at (EVEN) odds to reach the Final Four.

What changed? Or maybe the question is, what didn’t change that everyone thought potentially might? The athletic, versatile Wildcats could have coasted through the Big East tournament and used the extra rest time to prepare for March Madness. Instead, ‘Nova roared to a conference tourney title in convincing fashion.

The rival Butler Bulldogs were dispatched 87-68 in the semifinals, as the Wildcats wowed with an almost-perfect offense. All 5 starters scored in double-figures. Frosh wunderkind Omari Spellman snagged 12 rebounds, 4 players (including Spellman) shot 50% or better from beyond the arc, and the team only missed 2 free throws out of 17.

Providence made things harder for the ‘Cats in the final, but Villanova punished the Friars in overtime and won by 10 points, budding superstar Jalen Brunson and 6’6″ guard Mikal Bridges combining for 56.

Sometimes a favorite is hotter than anyone else, sometimes more athletic, sometimes highly-endorsed by experts. The Wildcats are currently all 3 things, making their even-odds futures line almost seem generous. Can anyone conquer the ‘Cats before San Antonio?

‘Nova – Top show in public broadcasting

It helps when a squad plays on the east coast and is always in prime-time everywhere. But Villanova’s wins (and sparing losses) on TV have betrayed few weaknesses. Our best method of determining an upset special in the March Madness bracket is to look at the high seed’s schedule and identify which type of team can exploit their deficiencies.

Regretfully for schools like Texas Tech and Florida, there has been no single formula for beating the Wildcats in 2018.

Butler beat Villanova at its own game in a 101-93 mid-season thriller, out-defending and out-hustling the ‘Cats for the winning buckets. But the prospect of scoring 100 points on a long, intense half-court team like Jay Wright’s in the NCAA tourney is a long shot.

‘Nova would later lose to 3 lunch-bucket teams: Providence, Creighton and St. Joseph’s. During the same period of time, though, the Wildcats whipped highly-ranked conference opponents like Xavier.

If there’s one chink in the armor, it’s a lack of intensity and sharpness on the court when Villanova takes another school too lightly.

Purdue, WVU, and a host of long-shots

Purdue is ranked #11 by the Associated Press and racked-up an impressive winning streak or 2 over a winter’s worth of Big Ten play. Carsen Edwards has been prolific at shooting guard. However, the stretch-run of the Boilermakers’ season was nothing to write home about.

The Indianans lost their 3rd straight game 57-53 against a modest Wisconsin unit on February 15th, shooting miserably from outside and failing to convert rebounds into points.

If overconfidence and inconsistency could bother Villanova on the way to the Final Four, the factors could crush Purdue’s hopes altogether.

West Virginia (+650) also seems unlikely to contend for a spot in Texas. The Mountaineers have lost convincingly to every good team they have played late in the season, save Oklahoma and Texas Tech – and that might be more of an indictment of the Sooners and Red Raiders than anything else.

Shocked at a 4th seed

That brings us to the Wichita State Shockers, the last and best hope of a “hunch” gambler to score on a long-odds (+800) pick to outlast ‘Nova in the East. Wichita State is a well-coached former March Madness/Cinderella program which has proven its breakout NCAA performance of 2013 to have been anything but a fluke.

The ’18 squad’s shooting is off the hook, with a near-50% team average from the field. Senior center Shaquille Morris is money in the paint.

Again, however, the Shockers haven’t impressed throughout the season. Their 4th seed in the East might be about reputation and buzz instead of analysis. They suffered 4 conference losses in the relatively-thin AAC, losing to eventual 2nd-place Houston not 1, not 2, but 3 times by March. The Cougars showed that good D and a driving offense can go a long way to beating the perpetual up-starts from Kansas, drowning the Shockers’ 3-point shooting barrage with extra possessions and easy buckets.

Villanova isn’t a lock-down defensive team like Virginia or Cincinnati. But the Wildcats are so rich in athletic talent that early leads are no trouble to grab against quality foes. Once Wichita State falls behind by 10, the sharp-shooting Shockers are less in their element.

March Madness East Regional Betting Pick

Click to place a futures bet on the Villanova Wildcats to reach the Final Four and get a sign-up reward from Bovada.

It takes a lot to justify an even-odds wager on anyone winning at least 4 in a row at the Big Dance. But if there’s ever a time in which the bet is a solid one, this is it.

The Wildcats are so good that they could conceivably play a bad game against a 2nd, 3rd or 4th seed and still win. That puts their chances to reach The Alamodome at above coin-flip level.

Pick Brunson, Bridges and the best ballers in the bracket to make a Final Four appearance. Villanova will still be playing on March 31st.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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