The North Texas Mean Green will try to keep a Cinderella run alive when they face off against the Villanova Wildcats in the second round on Sunday. It’s time to continue our NCAA odds series and make a North Texas-Villanova prediction and pick.
North Texas pulled off one of the stunners in the first round, defeating fourth-seeded Purdue in overtime to advance to the Round of 32. Four starters finished in double figures for the Mean Green.
Villanova was a popular pick to lose in the first round. After losing Collin Gillespie at the end of the regular season for the rest of the year and with injury questions circulating around Justin Moore, many thought Winthrop would knock off the Wildcats in a classic 5-12 upset. Villanova put everyone on notice instead, defeating Winthrop by 10.
Here’s how the odds look according to the sportsbooks for this matchup.
NCAA odds: North Texas-Villanova odds
North Texas Mean Green +6 (-110)
Villanova Wildcats (-6) (-110)
Over 127 points (-126)
Under 127 points (-126)
Why North Texas could cover the spread
The Mean Green get it done on the defensive side of things, holding opponents to just 61.5 points per game. And before you mention that it could be a reflection of the conference they play in, they held these opponents to these point totals this year: West Virginia (62), Arkansas (69), Purdue (69 in overtime). There’s a sample size of power conference teams that have had fits with this North Texas defense.
While they get it done on defense and the offense isn’t that dynamic for North Texas, they do have a go-to guy in crunch-time moments. Javion Hamlet is a name to remember, and it’s one that will stick in the minds of Boilermakers fans for quite some time. Hamlet is putting up 15.3 points per game to go along with 4.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds per contest. Against Purdue he had 24 points and 12 rebounds, playing in 43 of a possible 45 minutes in the game.
If North Texas is to surprise once again, they’ll need the defense to play to its normal standard and for the ball to work through Hamlet on the other end.
Why Villanova could cover the spread
Villanova got it done in the Round of 64 with their defense as well. Facing a Winthrop team that loves to get out and run, Jay Wright’s squad held a team in Winthrop that averages 78.9 points per game to just 63. You give Jay Wright a week to prepare for an opponent, and it’s hard to pick against him given his track record.
The Wildcats showed they can get it done without their floor general in Gillespie. While it was known Gillespie would be out, the questions about Justin Moore’s health remained. Moore not only played against North Texas, but he scored 15 points and played 37 minutes.
Just getting that win, regardless of who it came against, had to inject plenty of confidence back into a Villanova team that was rattled in the games that followed right after Gillespie was ruled out for the year.
Even without him, Villanova is the better team here. Of course, we know in March that sometimes doesn’t matter.
North Texas doesn’t pack the same punch on offense that Winthrop does, and Villanova has guys on offense who can get buckets in bundles. If this game somehow gets pushed uptempo wise, it spells big trouble for the Mean Green.
Final North Texas-Villanova prediction and pick
Villanova now has the reassurance that they are capable of winning without Collin Gillespie, and they did it in the first round by suffocating a good Winthrop offense.
North Texas will keep it close, but ultimately they just don’t have enough offense against Villanova. Fouls and free throws at the end of this one will push Villanova over the hump to cover the spread.
FINAL PICK: VILLANOVA -5.5