Villanova’s offense is trending in the right direction and is clearly a Final Four contender once again. The Wildcats hold the No. 1 spot in the rankings and will need to play well to maintain that position, beginning with Saturday’s clash at Butler.
The Wildcats have increased their scoring in each of the last three games, from posting 77 points against La Salle to 87 at Temple and most recently to 95 points against Hofstra and an impressive 103-point effort at DePaul. Villanova shot 54.3 percent from the field and 15-of-31 from the arc against the Blue Demons in its Big East opener with all five starters and two reserves scoring in double figures. “I remember the first time we were the No. 1 team in the country and it was just a different feeling for the school, for the community,” guard Phil Booth said. “It was something we never really experienced before. Now we kind of focus on ourselves now. It’s about us trying to get better and stay locked in.” Butler opened its conference slate with a thrilling double-overtime win against Georgetown and enters with an 8-1 mark in its last nine games.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT VILLANOVA (13-0, 1-0 Big East): The Wildcats have five double-digit scorers on the season and all five have made at least 19 3-pointers at a 40 percent or better clip. Freshman forward Omari Spellman has four double-doubles in the last six games and is 16-of-24 from the arc since opening the season 3-of-13 from long range. Booth is 8-of-11 from the arc in the last two games and has surpassed his season scoring average (12.5) in six of the last seven outings.
ABOUT BUTLER (11-3, 1-0): Kamar Baldwin poured in a career-high 31 points against Georgetown and Kelan Martin made the game-winning basket late in double-overtime to help Butler overcome 3-of-21 3-point shooting and poor offensive rebounding (eight boards on 38 missed shots). Baldwin emerged from a three-game slump to make 12-of-21 shots in raising his scoring average to 14.2 points, second on the team to Martin (18.6). Neither player is a good 3-point shooter, although Paul Jorgensen and Sean McDermott both shoot over 40 percent from the arc.
1. Butler won both meetings between the teams last season, including a victory when Villanova was undefeated and ranked No. 1.
2. Wildcats G Jalen Brunson averages 17.9 points but has exceeded that average only once in his last eight games.
3. Jorgensen was 1-of-7 from 3-point range versus Georgetown after making at least three 3-pointers in six straight games.
PREDICTION: Villanova 73, Butler 70