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September 22, 2017

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Vegas Play of the Day: Villanova at Butler

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Kiichiro Sato / AP

Villanova’s Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to his game-winning, three-point basket at the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament basketball championship game against North Carolina on Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. Villanova won 77-74.

We’ve entered the third season of the annual South Point-lined Play of the Day competition, effective July 1.

Starting bankrolls have reset to $10,000, with the maximum bet being to win $1,000 and the minimum wager $300. Ray Brewer won the 2015-2016 season, after Taylor Bern prevailed in 2014-2015. Bern stepped away in the middle of the 2016-2017 season with a 16-12 record and $13,317 bankroll, with Mike Grimala taking his place.

Villanova Wildcats minus-2 at Butler Bulldogs, $440 to win $400:

When this line opened, the undefeated No. 1 team in the country was as high as a 4-point underdog, but the bettors quickly moved Villanova to a 2-point favorite. While you’re certainly not getting the best line, I still think Villanova minus-2 is the right play.

Villanova is the hottest team in all of college basketball, winning 20 straight games dating back to last season and covering the spread in four of its last five. The Wildcats face a tough challenge in Butler (12-2) but they should be up for it. Villanova is 4-1 against the spread on the road this year, including an 80-70 win over No. 10 Creighton as a 1-point favorite in its last game.

The Wildcats already have two road wins over top-25 teams (Creighton on Dec. 31 and No. 15 Purdue on Nov. 14) and could add No. 18 Butler tonight.

The key will be which team controls the glass, and I like Villanova’s chances. The Wildcats rank 35th in the country in rebound margin with plus-6.4 boards per game. Butler plays an extremely small lineup and ranks 215th in rebound margin.

Wildcats senior Josh Hart leads the team with 6.8 rebounds per game and has been lighting up the scoreboard lately. The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 25.2 points over the last five games with 58 percent shooting from the floor. He scored 37 in Villanova’s win over Notre Dame on Dec. 10 and will need another big night against a tough Butler defense.

I’ll take the defending champs on the road and lay the 2 points.

Current Standings: Keefer (33-23-2, $11,561), Brewer (21-17-1, $10,645), Grimala (2-2, $10,000), Granger (4-8, $6,550)

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