VILLANOVA WILDCATS (13-7)
at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (16-4)
Tip-off: Wednesday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Line: Notre Dame -8, Total: 136
Coming off a week with wins against two top-five teams, Villanova will look to prove its success was not a fluke as it heads to South Bend on Wednesday night for a tilt with Notre Dame.
After losing three consecutive Big East games in the middle of January, things looked bleak for the Wildcats, but they responded in a big way with wins against then-No. 5 Louisville and then-No. 3 Syracuse. Notre Dame has also been inconsistent. After beginning the season 14-1 SU, the Irish have dropped three of their past five games. They still remain one of the nationís most dangerous offensive teams however, with a 50.0% FG clip (7th in D-I) and 18.2 APG (third in nation).
Will Villanova be able to keep its win streak going in South Bend? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Gary has a strong 55% ATS (63-52-1) record for the season for college basketball Best Bets, while StatFox Dave is 53% ATS (102-92-3) on the year. StatFox Scott is 14-11 ATS (56%) since Jan. 20, and StatFox Brian has 13 non-losing days in the past 18 days.
When Notre Dame eked out a 74-70 overtime win against Villanova last season -- overcoming a 20-point deficit -- PF JayVaughn Pinkston led the Wildcats, playing 45 minutes and scoring 24 points on 4-of-8 shooting from deep. This year, Pinkston (13.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG) has developed even more into their top scoring option with a strong jump shot and post game. Freshman G Ryan Arcidiacono (11.7 PPG) is the teamís leading scorer from the outside, hitting 2.1 threes per game, though he has struggled from the field in Villanovaís upsets, going a combined 6-for-20 (30%). That drops him to a horrible 33.5% FG clip (31.3% threes) for the season. Lengthy 6-foot-6 SG Darrun Hilliard (10.8 PPG) is the teamís final double-digit scorer and lit it up against Syracuse with 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting, while adding seven rebounds and six assists, both season highs. Senior C Mouphtaou Yarou (8.3 PPG, 6.4 PPG) also exploded on the Orange for 14 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out. Although the near-7-footer makes just 41.3% FG this season, he's draining 78.2% of his free throws (61-for-78).
The main guys who led the Fighting Irish to the improbable comeback over the Wildcats last season are all back in action. PF Jack Cooley dropped 18 in that game (on 8-of-11 shooting) with 13 boards, and this season is averaging a team-high 14.4 PPG and 10.8 RPG. The double-double machine is hitting 59.2% FG and also swatting 1.3 shots per game. Swingman Pat Connaughton (9.5 PPG) scored a team-high 21 points in the game last season, hitting 7-of-12 threes, and grinds out 31.4 MPG for this yearís squad. Over his past three games heís averaging 13.7 PPG and has been a threat from beyond the arc all season with 40.2% threes. Junior G Eric Atkins (12.0 PPG, 6.4 APG), who currently leads this team with a staggering 37.0 MPG, scored 17 with five assists in last season's comeback versus Villanova, and this season has been the teamís most efficient long-distance threat, hitting 44.8% threes. Heís also one of the two reasons this team is one of the best passing teams in the country. The other reason is fellow juinor G Jerian Grant (12.8 PPG, 5.4 APG), who is averaging 7.0 APG in his past three contests on this rare team with two players averaging more than five APG.