NCAA

Villanova the 2018 NCAA champions? The odds are favorable

Villanova the 2018 NCAA champions? The odds are favorable

One year ago, on Tuesday, Villanova's Kris Jenkins hit "the shot" to defeat North Carolina 77-74 in the 2016 national championship game. 

This year, Villanova suffered a second-round loss to an under-seeded Wisconsin team. But 'Nova has a good chance to win it all in 2018. 

The Wildcats have 14/1 odds of winning the 2018 NCAA national championship, according to Bovada.

Kentucky tops the list with odds at 9/1. Newly-crowned champions UNC have 12/1 odds, while Duke sits at 14/1, along with Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas and Louisville.

Wisconsin, which knocked off ‘Nova this year, has 66/1 odds. South Carolina, this year’s Cinderella story, has 100/1 odds.

Rounding out the list are Temple and St. Joe’s, each given 1,000/1 odds.

Why the odds make sense
The Wildcats' roster next season will be led by four juniors: Phil Booth, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall. Booth, who was injured during the 2016 championship game, should be fully recovered from an arthroscopic procedure performed on his knee last May. Booth technically should be going into his senior year, but an impending medical red shirt would give the point guard two more years of eligibility.

Brunson may go through the NBA draft process like Jenkins and Josh Hart did last season, but it's certainly possible he returns to school. The NBA allows college underclassmen to work out for teams and go to the draft combine, but can return to school if they do not hire an agent. 

Brunson, in 36 games last season, averaged 14.7 points and 2.6 rebounds. Bridges averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in 33 games. Both players shot 54 percent from the field.  

The final junior, Eric Paschall, averaged 7.2 points per game and shot 51 percent from the field.  

The Wildcats will also return rebound-machine Donte Divincenzo. The red-shirt freshman averaged 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds off the bench in the regular season. The reserve played his best basketball during the NCAA Tournament, when he averaged 18 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. 

In addition to those players, the Wildcats will also add five-star recruit Omari Spellman, who was ruled academically ineligible this past season. The forward should provide an inside presence for Villanova next season. 

Villanova stays at No. 5 in AP poll; Temple receives votes

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Villanova stays at No. 5 in AP poll; Temple receives votes

A week where Villanova barely had to break a sweat has Jay Wright and his Wildcats holding steady in the latest AP poll.

After making quick work of Nicholls St. on Tuesday and then Lafayette Friday evening in Allentown, the 'Cats are the No. 5 team in the land for the second straight week. They moved up from No. 6 last week after leapfrogging now-No.8 Kentucky.

There's an excellent chance things are going to get much trickier for the Wildcats this week as they head to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which starts Wednesday vs. Western Kentucky. But a potential second-round matchup with No. 18 Purdue looms Thursday, as does a potential championship showdown of titanic proportions with No. 2 Arizona on Friday.

But the 'Cats aren't the only team with some AP poll notoriety this week.

Fran Dunphy's 3-0 Temple team received four votes this week after capturing the Charleston Classic crown. The Owls earned the honors with victories over Old Dominion, Auburn and Clemson.

The Owls next game is their first of the season in the Big 5 as they'll travel to Olney to face La Salle on Sunday. The Owls and Wildcats will meet in North Philly on Dec. 13.

Duke was again No. 1 in this week's poll. Arizona leaped to No. 2, Kansas held its ground at No. 3 and Michigan State slipped to No. 4 before Villanova rounded out the top 5. 

Tons at stake as Temple hosts unbeaten UCF; Penn, Villanova wrap up

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Tons at stake as Temple hosts unbeaten UCF; Penn, Villanova wrap up

Temple (5-5, 3-3 AAC) vs. No. 15 UCF (9-0, 6-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, noon, ESPNU

Last time out
Temple beat Cincinnati, 35-24, last Friday.

UCF beat UConn, 49-24, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Both teams have a lot at stake in Saturday’s game. An Owls win would make them bowl eligible and give them a victory against a high-ranked opponent, which would certainly help when it comes time for bowl selection. On the other hand, UCF will look to preserve its perfect season and stay atop the AAC's East Division with a crucial matchup against 8-1 South Florida looming.

Frank Nutile, who will make his fourth consecutive start at quarterback, has sparked Temple’s offense. Since he stepped in, he has completed 61 of 89 passes for 803 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions, and led the Owls to two wins. He will need to continue his stellar play for Temple to beat UCF, which boasts the second-best total and scoring defense in the AAC, allowing 371 yards per game and 20.7 points per game.

The Knights also have the best total offense in the conference, putting up 538 yards per game and 48.6 points per game, which is more than six points better than the second-best team. The Owls must keep UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (2,720 yards, 22 touchdowns, five interceptions) and the Knights' rushing attack, which averages 210.2 yards per game, in check if they want a chance at the upset.

Series history
The series is tied at 2-2 and Temple has won the past two matchups, including a 26-25 come-from-behind win last year.

What's next?
Temple travels to play Tulsa next Saturday.

UCF hosts No. 23 South Florida on Friday night.

Penn (5-4, 3-3 Ivy) vs. Cornell (3-6, 3-3 Ivy)
Franklin Field
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.


Last time out
Penn defeated Harvard, 23-6, last Saturday.

Cornell lost to Columbia, 18-8, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Penn has won its last three Ivy League contests and has gained a lot of momentum after losing its first three Ivy League games this season. Cornell shouldn’t pose much of a challenge to the Quakers since the Big Red are second worst in the conference in scoring offense, total offense and pass efficiency. The Quakers’ strength is their rushing attack, as they average 192 yards per game on the ground. Cornell’s rush defense is sixth in the conference, so look for the Quakers to take advantage of this matchup.

Series history
This is the 124th meeting between the teams. The Quakers hold a 72-46-5 advantage and won, 42-20, last season. 

What's next?
This is the final game of the season for both teams.

Villanova (4-6, 2-5 CAA) vs. Delaware (7-3, 5-2 CAA)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pennsylvania 
Saturday, 1 p.m.


Last time out
Villanova lost to Rhode Island, 20-6, last Saturday.

Delaware beat Albany, 22-3, last Saturday.

Scouting report
What stands out about this regular-season finale are the defenses for Delaware and Villanova. Delaware’s scoring defense is second to James Madison as the Blue Hens allow just 15.7 points per game. The Wildcats’ specialty on the defensive side of the football is their run defense. Villanova allows only 72 yards per game on the ground and will look to slow down a Delaware rushing attack that averages 200 yards per game. Also to note, the Blue Hens come in fighting for a berth in the FCS playoffs.

Series history
Villanova leads the series 28-21-1. The Wildcats won, 41-10, last season.

What's next?
This is the regular-season finale for both Villanova and Delaware. For the second time in the last three seasons, the Wildcats won't make the FCS playoffs.