Better Balanced Xavier Our NCAA Basketball Pick vs. Providence

Ted Sevransky

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 9:07 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 9:07 PM UTC

Let’s not forget that Providence has been vulnerable here at the Dunkin Donuts Center, suffering previous Big East home losses, tonight the face Xavier, who will be our NCAA basketball pick?

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Xavier -1
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker


Xavier vs. Providence
To say that this is a brutal spot for the home underdog is something of an understatement. Providence is facing the best two teams in the Big East in back-to-back games. To make matters worse, their schedule has been negatively affected by the East Coast blizzard last weekend.  The Friars were supposed to face Villanova in Philly on Saturday at noon.  Instead, that game got pushed back to Sunday at 1 PM. 

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And that matchup with the Wildcats was a real doozy. Providence won the game in overtime, and they were thrilled about it. Head coach Ed Cooley: “This is an unbelievable win for us.”  Leading scorer Ben Bentil played the entire 45 minutes. NBA prospect Kris Dunn played 43 minutes of court time. It was an intense, grueling contest, plain and simple.

Instead of two days of prep time for Xavier, the postponement versus Villanova and the subsequent travel home has left Providence with very little left in the tank and very little prep time for the Musketeers. Coming off an ‘unbelievable win’ at Villanova, and on the heels of another down-to-the-wire, rally-from-behind -late intense win over Top 25 Butler in their previous game, I’m expecting the Friars to be a notch or two sluggish this evening. And that’s very bad news against Xavier.

Let’s not forget that Providence has been vulnerable here at the Dunkin Donuts Center, suffering previous Big East home losses here in January as 9.5 point favorites against Marquette and as six point favorites against Seton Hall. Nor should we forget that the perimeter oriented Friars have been going though a nasty shooting slump of late, hitting just 37% from the floor in their last five games. A team that is struggling to shoot the basketball won’t be helped by tired legs and short turnaround times between games!

Xavier has been an undervalued commodity since before Thanksgiving, riding an 11-4 against the NCAA basketball odds hot streak into Tuesday. Chris Mack’s team is a nightmare for a gassed opponent because this team is an intense as their coach, particularly oh the defensive end of the floor. Xavier doesn’t give up transition opportunities or easy looks near the basket. Opponents have to work for their shot on every possession

The Musketeers have been winning SU in hostile environments all year. They won their pre-Thanksgiving tournament with wins over Dayton, USC and Alabama on a neutral floor in Florida. They beat the Wolverines by 16 in Ann Arbor, knocked off Wake Forest by eight in Winston-Salem, and notched a pair of eight point road wins at Marquette and St John’s here in Big East play.

The Musketeers are elite defensively. They’re big and physical in the low post, outrebounding opponents by nine boards per game. They hit free throws at a 74% clip, so important in these short pointspread games. Unlike Providence, who relies on their two stars for the majority of their production, Xavier has a balanced offense featuring six players averaging at least 8.5 points per game.

The Musketeers still remember losing in overtime on this floor last year in a game where they were just 2-16 from three point range. Expect better shooting from beyond the arc tonight in a game Xavier should win by a bucket or more. Take Xavier as your NCAA basketball pick.

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