- The No. 7 Villanova Wildcats (5-1) will play their first home game of the season when they host the Butler Bulldogs (1-0) Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Philadelphia
- ‘Nova, favored to win the Big East, opened the 2020-21 slate with six games away from the Philly campus, while Butler has only played one game due to COVID issues
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup between Butler and Villanova
The seventh-ranked Villanova Wildcats will finally play their first home game of the season — albeit without fans — when they host the Butler Bulldogs in a Big East matchup slated for Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET inside The Pavilion.
Jay Wright’s team is coming off a 76-63 victory over Georgetown in their conference opener Friday. Meantime, LaVall Jordan’s team has only played one game — a 66-62 win over Western Michigan the day before Thanksgiving — due to COVID issues.
‘Nova has already knocked off a pair of ranked teams (an 83-74 win over No. 18 Arizona State and a 68-64 victory over No. 17 Texas), but did suffer an 81-73 defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech. Despite the loss though, the winner of two of the last four national championship is rated No. 3 by KenPom. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are breaking in numerous new faces and are rated No. 62. It’s no surprise ‘Nova is a big favorite in this spot, laying a full 12 points at home.
Butler vs #7 Villanova Odds
|Butler||TBD||+12 (-110)||O 132 (-110)|
|Villanova||TBD||-12 (-110)||U 132 (-110)|
Odds as of Dec. 15.
Big East Power
With four players averaging in double figures so far this season, led by Collin Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl each putting up 15 points per game, Villanova looks like the conference favorite the program was tabbed as in the preseason coaches poll. Sure, the ‘Cats had a hiccup against the Hokies. But they appear to have things headed in the right direction with three straight wins since, including that 13-point win over the Hoyas.
Gillespie and Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels each poured in five 3-pointers and 18 points Friday in a game that saw Villanova trailing by 18 points in the first half. But Wright’s club shook off the slow start and rallied for their ninth straight Big East opening win. The 6-foot-3 Gillespie is the floor general for the team, while Robinson-Earl, is the reigning the Big East Freshman of the Year. This is a program that has won at least 24 games in each of the past seven seasons, including NCAA titles in 2016 and 2018.
The quest for hanging another banner in The Pavilion resumes Wednesday against a disorganized Bulldog squad.
You have to feel for Jordan. His Butler team picked up a close victory over WMU in the season opener Nov. 25. But, then one of his players tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, the Bulldogs have had to cancel or postpone four games, including Eastern Illinois, Northern Kentucky, Kansas State, and St. John’s. Group workouts resumed in the first week of this month, but as of Dec. 9, the full team still had not practiced together.
Butler lost key players Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott, who helped Butler beat Villanova 79-76 last year, to graduation. Jair Bolden, a graduate transfer from South Carolina, is expected to take on a primary role. Butler will find out the status of another transfer, Bo Hodges, right before tip Wednesday. His eligibility this season is pending a vote by the NCAA to decide if transfers should receive immediate eligibility.
? A look back at Jair Bolden’s debut in a Bulldog uniform. pic.twitter.com/e3MZSIIiiz
— Butler Basketball (@ButlerMBB) December 5, 2020
Aside from Boldin and possibly Hodges, Butler brought in five freshmen, including Myles Tate, who led his South Carolina high school to a state title all four years. Chuck Harris, another four-star freshman guard, averaged 12 points and was considered one of the top 25 guards in the country.
The bottom line: this game is an utter mismatch.
When you combine ‘Nova’s motivation and experience to Butler’s uneven (at best) season so far, the Wildcats are the clear pick in this spot.
The challenge of breaking in new players — one of whose eligibility is still uncertain — and coming back from weeks without a true practice is a daunting one for Butler. The only chance for the Bulldogs to keep this one close is for the Wildcats to come out flat — like they did against the Hoyas — with no fans in attendance. But the perennial mid-major power will likely struggle Wednesday against Villanova’s veteran-laden team.
The pick: Villanova -12 (-110)