'Under' Our NCAA Basketball Pick In Top 25 Cincinnati vs. Xavier Matchup

Willie Bee

Saturday, December 12, 2015 4:40 PM GMT

There's only one top 25 matchup on Saturday's NCAA basketball odds board, and we've got a free NCAA basketball pick on the Crosstown Showdown between Cincinnati and Xavier.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Under 139½
Best Odds Offered By BetOnline

 

Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin tried to downplay the intensity of the rivalry his Bearcats have with the Xavier Musketeers, but he's not fooling me one bit, especially since the teams are both ranked as they head into their twilight meeting on Saturday.

After two years playing this rivalry on the neutral court of the US Bank Center, the Crosstown Shootout returns to the respective home floors of the schools, this time at Xavier's Cintas Center. FOX will carry the tip a little after 5:30 PM (ET), and the matchup marks only the second time both teams are ranked for the clash, the first coming 21 years ago.

BetOnline started the wagering with Xavier at -5½ on the NCAA Basketball odds, and after that spread briefly jumped up to -6½ and dropped as low as -5, the number has settled back in at -5½. The total began at 142 but has slipped to 139½ on game day.

The 83rd meeting between the clubs finds No. 23/22 Cincinnati holding a 49-33 series lead, though No. 12/13 Xavier has won each of the last two meetings and six of the last eight. Spread winners have been split evenly 5-5 over the last 10 encounters with the last three totals never making it to the mark.

Must Read: NCAA Basketball Picks for Saturday

Defense The Strong Suit In Cincy
Cincinnati (8-1 straight up, 2-3 against the spread) suffered its only loss 10 days ago in a buzzer-beater to Butler, 78-76. The Bearcats led by as many as eight in the second half before the Bulldogs closed strong for the upset win as 5½ point underdogs. Butler's 78 points are the most Cincinnati has allowed this season, the team ranking eighth in scoring defense (58.4 ppg) and ninth allowing the opposition to connect on just 36.1% of their field goal attempts.

Cronin's club bounced right back with an 87-66 win over Morgan State last Sunday, the contest never making it to the NCAA basketball betting board. Despite the 21-point victory, it wasn't necessarily a good effort with the Bearcats sinking a season-low 20.7% from 3-point range and managed to convert only 11 of 18 shots from the charity stripe.

Seven of Cronin's usual 8-man rotation are scoring at least 7.3 PPG, led by Octavius Ellis' 11.0 average. Ellis is also part of a block brigade with 14 swatted back from whence they came, tied with Gary Clark in that column. The Bearcats are 16th in the nation blocking 6.2 a contest, and the tight defense has also been a smart defense with Cincinnati fourth in the country committing just 15 fouls a game.

 

Balanced Scoring Has The X-Men Unbeaten
A victory Saturday would give Xavier (9-0 SU, 6-3 ATS) a tie for its best start ever at 10-0, last accomplished in 1996. Having six players averaging at least 10 points per game has been a big reason behind the perfect start. Chris Mack's balanced offense ranks 32nd (83.2 ppg), that tally up to over 90 PPG in the last three contests.

Not only have the Musketeers won nine, they've covered the last five. Three of those games came in the AdvoCare Invitational down in Florida last month when Xavier pretty much ran roughshod over Alabama, USC and Dayton to bring home the hardware. Those victories came a little more than a week after upsetting Michigan up in Ann Arbor, 78-66, as 5½ point underdogs.

Though the offense is getting much of the attention so far, and making 'over' bettors very happy with seven winning tickets in nine tilts, Cincinnati is not one-dimensional with some solid defense to complement matters. The Musketeers are 34th allowing 64.0 PPG and 12th cleaning the glass to the tune of 44.2 rebounds a contest, 12 of those boards each game coming on the offensive end.

This is going to be a physical matchup with every rebound and layup contested, so the big question is how much will referees allow? My free NCAA Basketball pick will back the defenses with a play on the 'under.'