Villanova and Oklahoma will meet Saturday on CBS in the Big East/Big 12 Battle with each team looking for a marquee nonconference victory. It's been a rough start for the Wildcats, but a game with the Sooners represents a chance for Villanova to get headed in the right direction before Big East play begins later this month. Oklahoma is coming off a title in the ESPN Events Invitational, is 6-1 and is considered a top-40 team in the country by many metrics.
If nothing else, the game figures to be relatively close because of how slowly both teams play. Oklahoma ranks No. 343 of 363 Division I teams in pace, according to KenPom.com while Oklahoma ranks No. 337. The Wildcats have reached 80 points just once this season while the Sooners have yet to cross the 80-point threshold.
But in a three-game sweep through Nebraska, Seton Hall and Ole Miss last week, the Sooners allowed an average of just 58.3 points per game. For a Villanova team shooting just 31.4% from beyond the arc, scoring against Oklahoma will be a challenge. The Wildcats will have home court advantage, though, as they play inside Wells Fargo Arena for the first time this season after playing their first two home games at the smaller Finneran Pavilion venue on campus.
A 2-5 start amid the transition to Kyle Neptune from Jay Wright likely isn't what Villanova fans envisioned for this season, but there a couple of reasons for them to tune in Saturday. For one thing, Wright is expected to make an appearance on the broadcast with Tom McCarthy, Bill Raftery and Jon Rothstein as he prepares to make his CBS Sports studio debut on Dec. 17 in his new role as an analyst with the network. Wright will also be on the call for the Villanova-Penn game on CBS Sports Network on Dec. 7.
Additionally, five-star freshman Cam Whitmore could see action. Neptune described the 6-foot-6 wing as a game-time decision this week, meaning he could make his season debut after undergoing preseason thumb surgery. The arrival of Whitmore into the rotation and the eventual return of senior guard Caleb Daniels from a torn Achilles provide reasons for optimism that Villanova could still be a factor in the Big East this season.
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Villanova vs. Oklahoma prediction, pick
Villanova's Whitmore could make his season debut here, but he will need time to acclimate to the rigors of college basketball. Oklahoma has been among the top defensive teams in the nation while Villanova has struggled to score. The Sooners aren't exactly offensive stalwarts, either, but they have shown the ability to grind out wins in close games. This figures to be a low-scoring, defensive-oriented affair and Oklahoma has the chops to outlast Villanova in that type of game. Prediction: Oklahoma +2.5
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