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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 7:00 PM

The Villanova Wildcats didn’t get much preseason run as a threat this year in college basketball. But, like a few other teams on the national landscape, the squad has played consistently solid all year long amidst a collection of disappointments. With just over a week to go in the regular season, the polls currently rate Villanova as an Elite 8 caliber team.

Handicappers and fans will get a good chance to evaluate that ranking, and Villanova’s postseason hopes Sunday when they host Marquette in a game that will be nationally televised by CBS. Marquette is a talented team that’s been a disappointment against expectations….and that currently finds itself on the outside looking in regarding bubble talk. Will Villanova come in overconfident against a team trying for a statement win?


Computer Rankings

Marquette: #58 in Pomeroy, #56 in Sagarin

Villanova: #9 in Pomeroy, #5 in Sagarin

They’ll have to really lift their play to pull that off! Hey, March has arrived, and anything can happen in college basketball. And, that’s particularly true with upset potential involving teams who may already be thinking about the tournaments. College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin are largely in agreement that Villanova is an Elite Eight threat. Sagarin almost has them in the Final Four. Marquette won’t get any votes from the computer guys for bubble consideration. And, current Bracketology estimates from Joe Lunardi at ESPN don’t even have them in the first eight spots on the waiting list. A win here would give them a shot though…because it’s hard to separate Marquette from St. John’s and Providence…and those two are currently projected to Dance.


Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Marquette: #69

Villanova: #7

Villanova has done a very good job this year of attacking the basket, benefitting from a change in rules enforcement that allows offenses to be more aggressive. That’s really been the key to lifting them into elite circles. You’ll see in a moment that their defense has been top notch too. But, what’s made them a surprise stalwart (and Vegas moneymaker) has been their ability to put points on the board consistently. Marquette has struggled in this regard by Dance standards. That’s no surprise for people who watched them flounder so badly against the Syracuse defense in last year’s tournament.


Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Marquette: #68

Villanova: #20

Recent studies have shown that you have to be in the top 25 defensively in Pomeroy’s numbers to be a legitimate national championship threat (unless you’re offense is FANTASTIC). Villanova cracks that barrier, while also having a fantastic offense. Sometimes regular season surprises hit a wall in March when the pressure or fatigue gets to them. For now, Villanova is as legitimate as it gets. On paper, these guys are for real.


Pace Ranking

Marquette: #155

Villanova: #153

Virtually identical paces when you consider that more than 300 teams are being measured. That means neither team will be out of its comfort zone here. In the Dance, Villanova is versatile enough to play with fast or slow teams. The problem is that their style won’t take anyone else out of their comfort zone. Nobody will give them a headache with pace, but they won’t give anyone else a headache either.


Against the Spread

Marquette: 10-15-1

Villanova: 18-8

Talk about catching America by surprise! Villanova has been great, and Vegas oddsmakers have done a truly horrible job of adjusting the line. It’s very hard to cover at a 69% pace this deep into a college basketball season. That’s a reflection of Villanova’s consistency and oddsmaker stubbornness! Congrats to all of you who spotted quality early and have been taking advantage ever since. Marquette was supposed to be who Villanova became…and has been taking it on the chin all season in terms of the marketplace. Is the line finally in the right place now?

As we go to press, it’s yet to be determined whether Marquette/Villanova will be part of the Sunday card at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK. Other games under consideration are Ohio State/Indiana, Maryland/Clemson, Wisconsin/Penn State, and Stanford/Arizona. There are also a couple of sleepers from lesser leagues that may crash the party. You can purchase the final word here at the website Sunday morning with your credit card. If you have any questions, call our handicapping office before the games start Sunday morning at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about seasonal packages when you call.

Back with you tomorrow for a Big Monday preview. We’ll talk about marquee matchups and mid major tournaments through the week as MARCH MADNESS has officially arrived. Fasten your seat belts for a wild ride with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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