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Villanova or Penn State NCAA Odds: Which Team Is Better Bet?

Adam Thompson for Bookies.com

Adam Thompson  | 5 mins

Villanova or Penn State NCAA Odds: Which Team Is Better Bet?

Penn State or Villanova. Which of the two Pennsylvania schools is the better NCAA Tournament bet?

College basketball fans betting with Pennsylvania sportsbooks can wager on any of 11 NCAA Division I programs in the state. But just two of those teams are likely to play in the 2020 NCAA Tournament unless one of the others earns an automatic bid by winning a conference tournament championship.

That said, both Villanova and Penn State have a shot at winning a game or two – or more – during March Madness.

Villanova (23-7) and Penn State (21-9) are each ranked in the top 30 in most analytical metrics. The Wildcats are one game out of first place in the Big East; the Nittany Lions are two games back in the Big Ten. Each will get at-large bids if they do not win their conference tournaments.

But which of the Quaker State squads is the better college basketball bet to make noise in March Madness? Bookies.com breaks down the chances for each side and makes a pick.

Conference Tournament Chances

Villanova or Penn State NCAA Odds: Which Team Is Better Bet? 1
Penn State has lost four of five but is still in the thick of the Big Ten title race.

Penn State is +550 to win the Big Ten Tournament, the third-lowest odds behind Michigan State (+300) and Maryland (+350). Villanova, meanwhile, is +300 to win the Big East Tournament, tied for the lowest odds with Seton Hall and just above Creighton (+400).

Villanova will likely finish as the No. 3 or No. 2 seed in the Big East, but the Wildcats are 1-1 on the season against the other top four teams in the conference.

Penn State is a different story. If nothing changes in the Big Ten standings on Sunday, Penn State will get the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament. If that happens and seeds play out, the Lions would face No. 4 Illinois in the quarterfinals and No. 1 Wisconsin in the semifinals – avoiding Michigan State or Maryland until the title game.

Rest assured, Pennsylvania fans. Conference titles haven’t equated to NCAA Tournament success. Only one of the last six national champions has won their conference tournament. The one team that won both: Villanova in 2018. The Wildcats lost in the Big East tournament final prior to taking the 2016 crown.

Edge: Penn State is sitting where it wants to be and at +550.

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How They’re Playing Lately

Villanova or Penn State NCAA Odds: Which Team Is Better Bet? 2
Villanova has won six of seven including a huge road win at Big East leader Seton Hall.

Villanova lost three straight to open February, all to upper-half Big East competition. But since that slide the Wildcats have won six of seven, including a big 79-77 victory Wednesday at Seton Hall.

Penn State, meanwhile, is not trending in the right direction. The Lions have lost four of five, this after winning eight straight to get into the Big Ten title conversation.

Edge: Villanova is getting hot at the right time.

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How They’ve Done vs. The Best

Against opponents deemed Quadrant 1 by the NCAA – facing teams ranked 1-30 at home, 1-50 on a neutral site and 1-75 on the road – Villanova is 8-6. That is the fifth most Quad 1 wins in the nation, as only Kansas (11-3), Baylor (11-1), Seton Hall (10-6), Butler (9-6) and Iowa (9-7) have fared better.

Penn State isn’t far behind. The Lions are a respectable 7-7, tied for ninth-most. The Big Ten is the highest-ranked conference this season and as many as 10 teams could play in the Big Dance.

How about the ultra-elite opposition, teams currently ranked in the top 20? Villanova is 4-4, with a one-point win over Kansas and nine-point loss to Baylor included. Penn State is 3-2, splitting its series with Michigan State and Ohio State and knocking off Maryland.

Edge: Each team is prepared for the gauntlet of the NCAA Tournament. Draw.

Avoiding the Upset

Both teams have been respectable against top-flight completion, but have they avoided big upsets against teams they should have handled? The NCAA Tournament will be littered with upstarts looking for a program-defining win.

Villanova has done an exceptional job of not taking the little guy lightly. The Wildcats are 14-1 against non-Quadrant 1 teams, the lone defeat coming on Feb. 29 at home against Providence – a team that ranks 40th and will finish in the top four of the Big East.

Penn State is a solid 14-2, the lone defeats coming at the hands of Illinois (ranked 37th), 62-56, and a non-conference loss to Ole Miss (87th), 74-72.

Edge: Villanova, barely, but neither team has done anything to undermine their confidence in the early rounds.


Villanova or Penn State NCAA Odds: Which Team Is Better Bet? 3
Which coach is a better bet to be screaming for joy -- Pat Chambers of Penn State (left) or Jay Wright of Villanova?

When it comes to winning it all, Villanova is at +3500 on the college basketball futures market, Penn State is +5000.

These teams aren’t far off on paper, and that makes Penn State the value at significantly higher odds.

That said, this is Villanova we’re talking about. The Wildcats have won two of the last four national championships. Nobody should doubt that coach Jay Wright will have his team ready for the Big Dance. Penn State been to the NCAA Tournament once in the last 19 years and advanced to the Sweet 16 once since 1955.

In addition, once the tournament begins, Villanova’s road to the Final Four should be a little easier. CBS Sports projects the Wildcats as a No. 2 seed, ESPN has them as a No. 3. Penn State is a No. 4 at CBS, a No. 5 at ESPN. The odds of getting to the Final Four as a No. 2 seed are nearly double that of a No. 4.

Penn State’s odds make the Nittany Lions an enticing pick, but Villanova’s higher likelihood of success gives it the edge.

About the Author

Adam Thompson for Bookies.com
Adam Thompson
NFL writer and expert Adam Thompson joined Bookies.com in 2019 after a successful run as senior handicapper for SportsLine and CBSSports.com. He's long been established as one of the nation's premier handicappers, specializing in the NFL where he's hit on more than 60% over the past three years. Adam's NBA, PGA and horse racing picks have also produced major winners over the last 12 months. His customized NFL and NBA odds for players and teams have been picked up by hundreds of websites over the past year.