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Villanova a 2-Point Underdog to Kansas; Will Jayhawks Be the Latest #1 Team to Lose?

Villanova Wildcats basketball coach Jay Wright on the sideline
No. 18 Villanova looks to hand No. 1 Kansas its first loss in 10 games. (Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire.)
  • No. 1 Kansas is a two-point favorite versus No. 18 Villanova on Saturday (Noon ET, Dec. 21)
  • The Jayhawks have won nine straight and have covered in each of their last five outings
  • The Wildcats are 0-2 versus top-25 teams this season

The Kansas Jayhawks (9-1, 1-0 away) are the latest team to ascend to the top of the college basketball rankings. They’ll look to cement their status as the best team in the nation Saturday (Noon ET, Dec. 21) when they face No. 18 Villanova (8-2, 4-0 home) at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Four number-one teams have already tasted defeat in the first month and a half of the season, the latest being Louisville on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

No. 1 Kansas vs No. 18 Villanova Odds

Team Spread Total
Kansas Jayhawks -2.0 (-110) Over 148.0 (-110)
Villanova Wildcats +2.0 (-110) Under 148.0 (-110)

Odds taken Dec. 20.

Kansas, which is on an incredible run both straight up and against the spread, opened as two-point favorites. The Jayhawks have won nine straight and have covered in each of their past five. Villanova, meanwhile, has been a disaster against the number, posting a 3-7 ATS record this season. They’ve failed to cover in six straight outings and are 0-6 ATS versus top-150 ranked programs.

Rock Chalk

Kansas is a worthy number-one team and it’s surprising that there are two programs with shorter 2020 NCAA Tournament odds than the Jayhawks. They rank fourth in the country in points per game and second in field-goal percentage. They’re one of only 10 teams that shoots above 50% from the floor, and senior big man Udoka Azubuike leads the nation in shooting percentage.

Devon Dotson is the Big 12 scoring leader and five different Jayhawks have already posted 20 or more points in a game this season. They shoot 37% from beyond the arc and rank eighth in the country in assists. In other words, their offense is fire.

Their defense is no slouch either. They rank sixth in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metrics and are limiting enemy shooters to a 37.2% shooting percentage. They allow only 63.7 points per game and only one opponent has exceeded 68 points against them all season.

Will these Cats Bite?

This will be the biggest test of the season for Villanova, which enters Saturday’s matchup with an 0-2 record against top-25 opposition so far. Like Kansas, they’re an offensive juggernaut, with a plethora of scoring options, led by Saddiq Bey.

 

Four Wildcats average double-digit points per game and they’re one of the nation’s premier three-point shooting teams. Their prowess from beyond the arc will be tested Saturday and their success from three could determine the outcome of the game.

Villanova is hitting over 38% of its three-point attempts this season, while Kansas is limiting its opponents to 29.9% from long range. Given that 46% of the Wildcats’ field-goal attempts are from beyond the arc, they’ll need to hit at a high rate to keep this game close.

Roll with the Jayhawks

As good as Villanova’s offense is, their defense is far from elite. They rank 158th in PPG and it’s a big reason why they’ve failed to cover so many spreads. Their offense consistently puts up 70+ points, but their defense is allowing nearly as much production.  While Kansas’ average margin of victory is over 23 points, the Wildcats have held only two its past six opponents under 70 points.

Villanova is almost guaranteed to struggle defensively versus Kansas and, unless they make a ridiculous number of threes, the Jayhawks should roll. Kansas is superior in nearly every key statistical category and they have a good track record against top-25 opponents. They were 8-4 last season and are 99-50 since Bill Self took over in 2003.

 

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