Can a team from the Big East really be the most popular college basketball pick in the nation? The Xavier Musketeers have definitely fattened some bankrolls at 13-6 ATS.
Maybe it’s the “X” in their name. According to the public money charts available on the interwebs, the Xavier Musketeers are the No. 1 draw on the NCAAB odds board. Hard to argue with a team that’s gone 16-3 SU and 13-6 ATS to start the season. But Xavier? They were in the Atlantic 10 five years ago, and they’re in what’s left of the Big East now.
Gotta keep up with the times. The Musketeers made the Elite Eight last year, and they’re obviously doing quite well for themselves under head coach Chris Mack. However, as you may have already guessed, it’s time to burst Xavier’s bubble. This team isn’t quite as studly as their record would suggest, and we can profit with our college basketball picks when the regression monsters descend on Cincinnati.
Exhibit A: The Musketeers are No. 10 on the AP and coaches polls as we go to press, but only No. 16 (No. 13 offense, No. 54 defense) on Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency charts. Casual fans just don’t pay enough attention to defense. Xavier have allowed 72.9 points per game, eighth of the 10 Big East programs. That’s partly because they operate at a fast pace, but even if we look at defensive efficiency, the Musketeers rank No. 114 in Division I at 98.2 points allowed per 100 possessions.
Exhibit B: According to Pomeroy’s numbers, Xavier ranks No. 30 overall in Luck Factor at plus-0.097. They’ve had some close shaves this year, beating East Tennessee State (+21.5 away), Marshall (+19.5 away) and DePaul (+14 away) by a combined 11 points. That’s going to come back to bite them at some point. Maybe it already has; the Musketeers lost back-to-back road games to Providence (+5.5) and Villanova (–9.5) SU and ATS earlier this month.
All Red Everything
Again, we’re not saying Xavier can’t ball – we’re just saying the betting market has fallen a bit too hard for the Musketeers. Don’t forget, this was an 11-seed in last year’s Tournament, after losing to Creighton in the Big East semis. So are we fading XU this Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN) when they welcome the St. John’s Red Storm (10-8 SU, 8-8 ATS) to Cintas Center?
St. John’s is No. 264 overall in Luck Factor at minus-0.042, so that helps. There’s about a 10-point difference between the two teams on a neutral court, according to Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency margins and the Simple Rating System at Sports Reference. Xavier’s home-court advantage is worth about five points, as per some of the power rankings you’ll find online, so if you can get the Red Storm at better than +15, consider giving them a shot this Wednesday.