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Two teams that are in dire need of a big time victory to get some momentum going towards the NCAA Tournament meet up on Monday night in the City of Brotherly Love, as the Villanova Wildcats duke it out with the Syracuse Orange.
Matchup: Syracuse Orange @ Villanova Wildcats
Date: Monday, February 21st, 7:00 ET
Location: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA
NCAA Basketball Odds: Villanova -3.5
Orange Notes: The question is whether the Orange are really back in the saddle or not. An 84-80 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in overtime wasn't exactly what we were hoping to see from Syracuse over the weekend. However, it was the second straight win for Head Coach Jim Boeheim and company, something that shouldn't be taken for granted. There are four men that really lead the way for the 'Cuse, none of which are more important than Rick Jackson. Sure, Jackson isn't the biggest scorer on the club, as he is putting up 13.0 points per game, second on the squad, but he is the top rebounder at 11.2 boards per game and is the leader in blocks with 68 in total. Kris Joseph is the leading scorer at 15.0 points per game, but he just doesn't feel like he has been in his element since the beginning of this month. His 21 points and eight boards though, was an encouraging point from that game against Rutgers. Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche are averaging 12.2 points and 11.4 points per game respectively. CJ Fair came up with 12 big points to help out off the bench against the Scarlet Knights, and he is the leader outside of the starting five at 6.5 points per game. The problem has been the defense, which is something that a Boeheim led team usually doesn't end up fretting about. Though things have generally been okay this year, giving up 80 to the Scarlet Knights and 90 to the Seton Hall Pirates is just another reminder that things aren't perfect in the eyes of the Orange as we head towards March.
Wildcats Notes: The good news for Villanova is that it is probably getting Corey Stokes back in the lineup on Monday after he missed out on Saturday's escape from the DePaul Blue Demons. The OT win over DePaul wasn't a thing of beauty by any stretch of the imagination, but just getting the road win was certainly good enough. Corey Fisher had a blast without his backcourt mate in the fold, scoring 34 points in the win, which raised his scoring average up to 16.3 points per game. Stokes will be a welcome addition back into the lineup again though, as he is averaging 14.6 points per game. He's also the man who you want to have the ball in his hands when the game is tight and you need some free throws. Not only does Stokes do a great job protecting the ball, averaging just under 1.5 blunders per game, but he is shooting 93.5 percent from the charity stripe on the campaign to boot. Antonio Pena is coming off of an absolutely horrid game against the Blue Demons, but he should be rebounding well against Syracuse. He is averaging 10.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Mouphtaou Yarou is a star as well, averaging 9.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
The Final Word: Neither one of these teams are really playing all that well right now, but the fact of the matter is that the Wildcats have been winning games on the road, something that is significantly harder than playing at home where the 'Cuse have struggled. Villanova should be reinvigorated with the return of Stokes and the fact that it is back at home for the first time in over a week, and it should be the victor on Big Monday in this big time battle.
Free College Basketball Picks: Villanova Wildcats