Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) pumps his fist into the air during team introductions before the start of an NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Maui Invitational, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Asheville, N.C. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
- Texas is a 1.5-point favorite at home over Villanova on Sunday at the Erwin Events Center in Austin as part of the Big 12-Big East battle
- Villanova is playing its first game of the season outside of the Mohegan Sun Arena “Bubbleville” in Connecticut and has a 3-1 record
- Texas is 4-0 and coming off winning the Maui Invitational, which was held in Asheville, N.C. due to COVID-19 concerns
The start of the college basketball season certainly felt the effects of the pandemic.
To kick off this season, Villanova played its first four games of the season in a “bubble”. Meanwhile Texas just played three games in a tournament moved from tropical Hawaii to the mountains of North Carolina.
Finally, at least a little bit of normalcy comes during this pandemic-altered season for both teams when Villanova visits Texas at 1 p.m. ET Sunday in a matchup of ranked team at the Erwin Events Center in Austin. The Wildcats are slight road favorites in a game that is part of the Big 12-Big East Battle.
Villanova vs Texas Odds
|Villanova||+102||+1.5 (-112)||Over 133.5 (-110)|
|Texas||-120||-1.5 (-108)||Under 133.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Dec. 5 from FanDuel
Villanova is 3-1 overall, 2-2 against the spread and coming off an 87-53 victory over Hartford as a 26-point favorite at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
Also on Wednesday, Texas edged North Carolina 69-67 as a one-point favorite in the Maui Invitational championship game at Asheville, N.C. The Longhorns improved to 4-0 and 3-1 ATS.
The state of North Carolina now has the rare distinction of being the only state to host a Rose Bowl and the Maui Invitational
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB) November 30, 2020
Villanova beat Boston College, Arizona State and Harford at Mohegan Sun’s “Bubbleville”. In their one loss, they were upset by Virginia Tech in overtime.
The Wildcats have shown a balanced attack in the early going with four players averaging between 13.0 and 15.5 points a game.
Sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is leading the way with the 15.5 ppg average. He tops the Wildcats in rebounds, too, with 9.3 a game.
Future professional basketball player in the NBA: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. (via @LEAGUEHIM_) pic.twitter.com/8vL0eouUVf
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) November 27, 2020
Scoring in double digits as well are All-American senior guard Collin Gillespie (15.3), junior guard Caleb Daniels (14.0) and sophomore guard Justin Moore (13.0).
Gillespie is also dishing out 4.5 assists a game. Daniels is in his first season with Villanova, sitting out last season after posting a 16.9 scoring average for Tulane in 2018-19.
Villanova showed off its depth in the rout of Hartford as freshman forward Eric Dixon came off the bench to post a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Wildcats held a 40-12 advantage in bench scoring.
Six Villanova players wound up scoring in double figures. Reserves Brandon Slater and Cole Swider had 13 points each.
Title a Consolation Prize
Texas did not get to experience a trip to Maui as coronavirus concerns caused the tournament to be shifted to Asheville. However, the Longhorns did walk away from the eight-team affair with the championship trophy.
The final ended in dramatic fashion as sophomore guard Matt Coleman III’s step back jumper with 0.1 seconds remaining gave Texas the two-point victory over North Carolina.
#ICYMI: @TexasMBB Matt Coleman III drains the buzzer beater to win the @MauiInv! #peepgame pic.twitter.com/3ROIB8hu4C
— Champs Sports (@champssports) December 3, 2020
Coleman was named the tourney’s MVP after scoring 48 points and handing out 14 assists in three games. Texas also defeated Davidson and Indiana.
Texas played strong defense, holding the Hoosiers and Tar Heels to a combined 33.7% shooting in the final two games.
Coleman leads three Longhorns in scoring (16.3) and tops the team in assists (5.0) and steals (1.5). Junior guard Courtney Ramey is averaging 15.0 points and sophomore forward Kai Jones has a 10.8 scoring average.
Villanova sophomore guard Bryan Antoine has yet to play this season because of a right shoulder injury. He underwent surgery on the shoulder prior to the 2019-20 season then was limited 87 minutes in 16 games a year ago.
Texas senior guard Jase Febres continues to rehab from knee surgery, though he is expected to return sooner rather than later.
He averaged 9.4 points a game last season and was second on the team with 55 made 3-point field goals.
Summing It Up
Texas and Villanova have met three times, in consecutive seasons from 2006-08. The Longhorns won twice.
All the players from those teams are long gone, though Jay Wright still coaches the Wildcats.
In this incarnation of the series, look for Texas to carry its momentum from Maui, er, Asheville back to Austin to burst Villanova’s bubble.
The Pick: Texas -1.5 (-104)
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.