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Fri, 28 Jan 2011 04:25 PM EST



Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Villanova -7, Total: 127

As the season of giving and receiving wrapped up at about the same time that the first week of conference play was winding down, it seems that the biggest thing teams in the Big East were exchanging were not gifts, but scares. South Florida went on the road last week to Connecticut and pushed the then-No. 4 Huskies into overtime before stubbornly going down 66-61. Villanova received a jolt when cellar-dweller Rutgers took a four-point lead into halftime at the Pavilion, before ‘Nova broke open a seven-point game late to win 81-65. Thursday night in Tampa, the Bulls will try to put more than a scare into the Wildcats as they get their second chance in as many games to knock off a Top-10 conference opponent. Las Vegas odds.

At 4-0 all-time, Villanova has never lost to South Florida in league play, but the two games played in Florida have been tight ones. A 49-46 squeaker in January 2006, and a 70-61 victory in January 2009 in which the ‘Cats had to pull away late. Villanova’s top scorer Corey Stokes (16.9 PPG) had 23 points in the win over Rutgers, and is averaging 22 points per game over his past three contests. Despite scoring over 77 PPG as a team, the Wildcats have been prone to suffer from occasional bouts of clankers syndrome, an affliction which entails the proclivity to have numerous shot balls deflect repeatedly off the side of the rim. The ‘Cats are shooting 44.8% from the floor, and the Bulls are shooting 42.0% as a squad. Those percentages could take a hit Thursday night because each team is among the best at defending in the Big East. Villanova is limiting opponents to a conference best 37.3 FG%, and USF is not far behind as it is allowing a mere 38.4 FG%.

The Bulls held the Huskies to just 37.5% shooting from the floor, but unfortunately lost their shooting touch at the worst possible time. Stan Heath’s team could only muster 15 points in the game’s final 16 minutes. The Bulls struggled mightily once Jim Calhoun decided to resort to a zone defense against them, and since Villanova’s coaching staff watches game tape too, expect Jay Wright to try and force USF to make some shots against a Villanova zone as well. Augustus Gilchrist (11.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) had his second-best point and rebound effort of the season versus Connecticut with 21 points and eight boards. Sophomore guard Jawanza Poland averages 10.2 PPG, after Gilchrist and Poland, no other Bulls players are scoring in double figures for the swishing-challenged Bulls offense. USF only averages 60.9 PPG, which is right near the bottom (315th to be exact) of the Division I rankings. Just to put that number into better perspective, Thursday night’s opponent, Villanova, averages 63.6 points per game just from its starting five.

South Florida has shot under 40 percent in all four meetings with Villanova, going 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS. However, this percentage has climbed each game — 29%, 32%, 35% and 38% in last season’s loss. The Wildcats have also increased their shooting accuracy with each meeting -– 30%, 42%, 44% and 47% last year. These two FoxSheets coaching trends think Villanova will win and cover on Thursday.

Stan Heath is 8-21 ATS (27.6%, -15.1 Units) off a road loss as the coach of SOUTH FLORIDA. The average score was SOUTH FLORIDA 63.9, OPPONENT 68.3 – (Rating = 2*).

Jay Wright is 56-40 ATS (58.3%, +12.0 Units) in road games as the coach of VILLANOVA.The average score was VILLANOVA 72.6, OPPONENT 69.9 – (Rating = 1*). Vegas odds.

This four-star FoxSheets trend expects the game to finish Over the total.

Play Over – Home teams where the total is 129.5 or less (SOUTH FLORIDA) – after going under the total by 48 or more points total in their last 10 games, a bad team (20% to 40%) playing a team with a winning record. (37-8 since 1997.) (82.2%, +28.2 units. Rating = 4*).

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