The top-seeded Villanova Wildcats (29-4) can likely lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a victory against the third-seeded Seton Hall Pirates (24-8) in the Big East tournament championship game on Saturday.
The Wildcats are seeking their second consecutive Big East tournament title as the top seed after routing the sixth-seeded Xavier Musketeers 69-52 as 7.5-point favorites in last year’s championship game.
Villanova opened as a seven-point betting favorite for Saturday's matchup with Seton Hall.
The Musketeers earned the second seed this year and had hoped to meet Villanova for a third time this season. However, they were upset 87-83 in the semifinals Friday by the Pirates, who were consensus five-point underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.
Seton Hall got a combined 43 points from sophomore guards Khadeen Carrington and Isaiah Whitehead in the win over Xavier, as the duo helped their school earn a shot at the conference tournament title following a first-round loss a year ago.
The Wildcats got by the fourth-seeded Providence Friars 76-68 in the earlier semifinal matchup, just falling short of covering the number as 8.5-point favorites. They have won five in a row and 12 of 13 but have struggled against the spread lately despite that dominance.
But while Villanova has failed to cover three of its last four games, all three came within one point of the closing line.
Junior forward Kris Jenkins scored a game-high 21 points against the Friars, who shot 45.2 percent from the field and were outrebounded 37-27.
The last meeting between the Wildcats and Pirates back on January 20 was a classic. Villanova won 72-71 at Seton Hall but did not cover as a seven-point road favorite, with senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono scoring the game-winning layup with 32.4 seconds left.
The Wildcats also won the previous meeting 72-63 at home on January 6 but again fell shy of covering as 15-point chalk. They have won three straight in the series with the Pirates overall but have gone 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings, according to the Odds Shark College Basketball Database.
Both teams have played at a fast pace recently, although their head-to-head matchups have turned out much differently.
The over has cashed in Villanova’s last eight games overall along with the previous five for Seton Hall. However, the under is 5-1 in the past six meetings, with the winner scoring more than 72 points only once.