Game: Villanova Wildcats at Syracuse Orange
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Odds: Wildcats -8.5, Orange +8.5
It’s a rivalry that dates back to the days of the old Big East. No. 6 Villanova will take on unranked Syracuse at Madison Square Garden tonight. It’s the first meeting between the two old Big East rivals since 2014 when the Big East realigned with basketball-only schools and the Orange headed out to the ACC.
Villanova is 6-2 so far this season with the two losses coming to elite programs. The Wildcats lost by six (80-74) to top-ranked Purdue back on Nov. 21 and fell to No. 4 UCLA 86-77 in overtime on Nov. 12. Head coach Jay Wright’s team has won its last three straight all over Big Five opponents. They have won in convincing fashion too beating LaSalle 72-46, Penn 71-56, and St. Joseph’s 81-52.
Syracuse (5-3) has not been as impressive as the Wildcats. The Orange lost to Colgate and VCU, both mid-major programs, but Syracuse has two impressive wins over Arizona State and, in their last game, over Florida State.
It will be a shot at redemption for Syracuse forward Cole Swider. The 6-foot-9-inch Swider transferred from Villanova to Syracuse for his senior season. Swider was the key in the Orange’s 63-60 win over the Seminoles on Saturday. He had 16 points, 10 rebounds, and hit two free throws with just 10 seconds left in the game.
Syracuse has struggled on defense this season. The Orange are allowing over 79 points per game and rank 333rd in the nation. Prior to the win over Florida State, the Orange allowed 110, 89, and 84 points in their previous three games. They also allowed 100 in the loss to Colgate.
Defense has been a strength for Villanova this season. In their six wins, the Wildcats have held opponents to just 56.5 points per game. Only one opponent, Howard, has scored more than 56 points in any of the Wildcats’ victories.
Historically, Villanova has lost four of the last six games in this series. They are just 2-4 ATS in those six games, but remember, the Wildcats have also won two national championships since last playing Syracuse.
The Orange is the better offensive team averaging nearly 81 points per game. In addition to Swider (13.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg), four other Syracuse players average in double figures. They are led by head coach Jim Boeheim’s son Buddy who scores 19.1 points a game. Historically in this series, there have been plenty of high-scoring games. Between 2008 and 2014, the two teams played 11 times. The Over went 9-2 in those 11 games.
Syracuse is 10-5 ATS in its last 15 games overall. The Over has hit in four of the Orange’s last six games. Villanova is 4-4 ATS this season and the Under is 4-1 in the Wildcats’ last five games. Both teams are very good early in a season. Villanova is 8-2 in its last 10 games in December. Syracuse is 9-1.