Villanova shouldn’t have made the Final Four.
In an intense Elite 8 game against Houston, Villanova won 50-44. A big factor was that Houston made one of 20 three point shots.
That is not a typo. Houston went 1-20 from three. This has about the same likelihood that Chris Rock gets slapped at the Oscars.
As a 2 seed, Villanova was not one of the teams I wrote about as a primary contender to win the tournament in The Power Rank 2022 Bracket Advice. In my most predictive college basketball numbers before the tournament, the Wildcats ranked 12th and had a 3% tourney win probability.
On offense, Villanova continues to field teams with athletic wing players that shoot a high rate of threes. This season, 46% of their field goal attempts came from behind the arc, 20th most in the nation. On offense, they rank 9th in my adjusted points per possession.
Villanova also has a respectable rank of 17th on defense. However, they have benefitted from extraordinary three point defense (30%). There is nothing in Villanova’s program history to suggest that this rate won’t regress to the college basketball average of 34%.
In addition, Villanova guard Justin Moore tore his achilles against Houston and won’t play in the Final Four. They face the remaining one seed in the tournament: Kansas. My numbers predict Kansas by 1.6 points. The Moore injury might be impacting the markets, as Kansas is -4.5 as of Wednesday afternoon at most sports books.
However, there are two reasons to like Villanova against the spread in this game.
First, let’s question how much the injury to Moore matters. On my podcast, both Ken Pomeroy and Alan Boston, college basketball analytics and betting legends, respectively, said injuries can be overrated.
While Moore is the second leading scorer for Villanova by points per game, he has poor efficiency numbers compared to his teammates. Here are his shooting numbers this season compared to the college basketball average:
- 44% from two (50% average)
- 36% from three (34% average)
Moore’s overall offensive rating has never been that high for Villanova over three seasons.
Caleb Daniels will step into the starting lineup for Villanova. Depth is potentially an issue. For example, Villanova only had six players with significant minutes against Houston. It seems like Chris Arcidiacono will now see more minutes as the sixth man.
Second, the markets have moved against Kansas over the past two games.
- Kansas -7 vs Providence in the Sweet 16 went to -6.5
- Kansas -6 vs Miami in the Elite 8 went to -5.5
This market movement went against both my best college basketball predictions and bets that I made. Kansas failed to cover against Providence and faced a six point deficit at the half against Miami. The Jayhawks did blow out Miami in the second half to cover.
Before the start of the tournament, Kansas was a team that I considered a national title contender. In addition to their strong numbers, Kansas features Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun, two wing players that should be first round NBA picks.
Still, the markets didn’t trust Kansas this past weekend compared to my predictions. Now, the markets have Kansas -4.5 compared to my prediction that has Kansas -1.6. You have to believe that Moore’s injury is worth three points to not find value in Villanova.
That seems unlikely, and I see value in Villanova +4.5.
Sports betting with a PhD edge
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