Houston Cougars vs Villanova Wildcats Pick – NCAA Tournament March 26, 2022

Normally, the Sweet 16 is where Cinderella goes to die, as the opening round of the 2nd weekend is generally the end of the road for many of the underdog teams. But that just wasn’t the case this year, as the Sweet 16 was a wild one, and as we hit the start of the Elite Eight later today, we have several teams that nobody, and I mean nobody, expected to see here!

The Peacocks of St. Peter’s became the first 15-seeded team ever to win a game in the Sweet 16, when they shocked the nation, again, knocking off the Purdue Boilermakers last night 67-64. Less than 1% of all brackets nationwide had the Peacocks playing in the Elite Eight, and it wouldn’t at all be an overstatement to say that this is the biggest underdog run we have ever seen in March Madness. The NCAA tournament is always chalked full of upsets, but to see a 15-seed team in the Elite Eight, just a game away from the Final Four, is on another level when it comes to madness!

And while the Peacocks are hogging much of the national spotlight, and deservedly so, the 10-seeded Miami Hurricanes and the 8-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels are both on magical runs as well and deserve a mention as teams that weren’t expected to go deep this year. This year, the final 8 teams have the highest total combined seeds ever, making this the most wide-open field of 8 that we have ever seen.

And then there were 8! The Elite Eight kicks off today with a pair of games, as teams play for their chance to head to the Final Four in New Orleans next weekend. The early game is between the 5th seeded Houston Cougars and the 2-seed Wildcats of Villanova. The late game features the top-seeded Blue Devils of Duke squaring off against the 4-seed Arkansas Razorbacks. For this article, we will head to the South Region, for the game between Houston and Villanova.

Houston Cougars (32-5)

The Houston Cougars have been a controversial team this year. If you are a believer in the analytics, the Cougars are the top team still playing right now, as they are ranked 2nd on Kenpom and 3rd on Net, with all of the teams ranked ahead of them already eliminated. But if you are a guy that likes to use the eye test, and rank teams by how many quad-1 victories they have, Houston was closer to a bubble team, than an elite one, on Selection Sunday.

The Selection Committee split the difference on Houston, as they ranked the Cougars as a 5-seed, but it is impossible to deny how well they have played in this tournament, as they have won all 3 of their games by double digits. And it’s not like the Cougars had a cakewalk to get here either, as they had to beat Conference USA tournament champion UAB in the round of 64, Big 10 regular season champion Illinois in the round of 32, and PAC-12 regular season and tournament champion Arizona in the Sweet 16.

If Cougar head coach Kelvin Sampson is able to lead Houston back to the Final Four, it will be his 3rd trip to the Final Four, as he took Oklahoma to the 3rd weekend back in 2002, and Houston last year. You rarely hear Sampson’s name come up in the discussion of elite head coaches, but this guy can flat out coach basketball and he has a long history of success of winning meaningful games in March.

The SOS was weak for Houston this year, and their lack of signature wins is what caused so many people to doubt them. But as we have seen in this tournament, the fact that Houston didn’t beat many great teams in the regular season, probably said a lot more about their weak scheduling, than it did about their ability to compete with the nation’s top teams. Going back to the end of the regular season, Houston has won 12 of their last 13 games, and this team has shown that they have what it takes to cut down the nets next weekend at the Final Four.

Villanova Wildcats (29-7)

The Villanova Wildcats had the exact opposite regular season as Houston, as the ‘Cats took on all comers, and while they did pick up some losses along the way, none of them were bad ones, and they hit the NCAA tournament as one of the most battle tested and accomplished teams in the field. When you look back on the full body of work for Villanova this season, it is easy to see why they are still alive in their quest for the national title, as they have an impressive resume.

Villanova has top-100 wins over Tennessee, Syracuse, Xavier (twice), Seton Hall (twice), Creighton (twice), St. John’s (3 times), UCONN (twice), and Providence (twice), to go along with the wins over Delaware, Ohio State, and Michigan in this tournament.

What Villanova has that no other team in the country has, is superstar Collin Gillespie. Gillespie is an uber-experienced senior at point guard. He is a consummate leader and is a guy that is never afraid of taking, and nailing, a big shot when his team needs it. It seems like in every close game that the Wildcats play, there is a stage in the game where everyone in the gym knows the ball is going to Gillespie, and he still manages to find a way to come up clutch.

There is no better tool for a team in March than a senior star at point guard, and the Wildcats have the best one in the country. The other thing that Villanova has that no other team does? Head coach Jay Wright.

Wright has 2 national titles on his mantle already and with living legends like Roy Williams and Coach K leaving the game, Wright is emerging as one of the greatest coaches still pacing the sidelines. Experience is a major key to success in the NCAA tournament, and the Wildcats have it all over the floor and on the sideline as well, and that makes them a team to watch out for right now.

Houston Cougars vs Villanova Wildcats Betting Odds And Team Statistics

The following odds are courtesy of BetOnline:

Teams Spread Moneyline Total
Houston Cougars -2.5 (-110) -150 Over 127 (-110)
Villanova Wildcats +2.5 (-110) +130 Under 127 (-110)
Team Data Houston Cougars Villanova Wildcats
Overall Record 32-5 29-7
ATS Record 25-12 19-15-2
Away/Home Record NEUTRAL NEUTRAL
ATS Away/Home NEUTRAL NEUTRAL
Points Per Game 75.6 72.5
Points Against Per Game 59.0 62.7
Field Goal % 46.9% 43.7%
Three Point % 34.4% 36.0%

Houston Cougars vs Villanova Wildcats Prediction:

This line is clearly being driven by the data, as Kenpom has the Cougars winning this game by 2-points, and the line opened up at Houston -1.5. The public has apparently changed their mind on Houston as well, as the early action has mostly come in on the Cougars, shifting this line a full point towards Kelvin Sampson’s squad.

If you are someone that has read my daily NCAA Men’s Basketball picks season this year, you will know that I love nothing more than to get on the other side of the public and take advantage of what I see as bad line moves.

After a year where we won a boatload of cash fading the public, now is not the time to change up my strategy, and I will again position myself on the other side of the public with a play on Villanova. And to be honest, I am actually pretty surprised that the public is on Houston, as even with as great as they have looked in this tournament, they still have some glaring issues that have me doubting them in this game.

Houston Cougars vs Villanova Wildcats Betting Trends:

Houston Cougars
  • Houston is 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games
  • The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Houston’s last 10 games
  • Houston is 6-0 SU in their last 6 games
  • Houston is 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games played in March
  • Houston is 6-1 SU in their last 7 games played on a Saturday
Villanova Wildcats
  • Villanova is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games
  • The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Villanova’s last 6 games
  • Villanova is 8-0 SU in their last 8 games
  • Villanova is 5-0 SU in their last 5 games this season
  • Villanova is 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games played on a Saturday

No matter which side of this game you are on, I think we can all agree that this is going to be a tightly contested affair tonight. These are both experienced elite teams that know how to win in March, and to see either of these teams win by double-digits would be shocking. If this game comes down to which team can hit their free throws down the stretch, which many games tend to do in March, Houston is going to be in trouble.

The Cougars aren’t just bad at making their free throws, they are awful! Houston shot it at just a 66% clip from the charity stripe this season, ranked 327th in the country. I am not sure that I can ever remember a team this good, be this bad at the line, and I think that is what costs them this game.

Villanova has Gillespie, who basically never misses from the free throw line, and if the Wildcats are in a position to seal this game late, they have a go-to guy that they know can get the job done. Oh, and did I mention that there was no better free throw shooting team in the nation than Villanova this year? The Wildcats have shot an absurd 83% from the line this season as a team, and that is going to be huge for them in this game.

Both of these teams are very good, and whichever team wins this game will have a really good shot at winning the national title next weekend at the Final Four. When Houston misses some painful free throws late in this game, and the Wildcats knock theirs down to seal the deal and win, remember you heard it here at TheSportsGeek first! Give me the Villanova Wildcats and the +2.5-points as they become the first team to punch their ticket to the Final Four with a hard-fought victory over Houston!

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Houston Cougars vs Villanova Wildcats Pick
Villanova Wildcats (+2.5)
Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL

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