College Basketball Picks for Xavier vs. Villanova

Willie Bee

Monday, February 3, 2014 1:40 PM GMT

Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 1:40 PM GMT

Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats are still stinging from a beat-down a couple of weeks administered by the Creighton Bluejays. A barrage of 3-pointers helped the 'Jays to a 28-point win as 6.5 point underdogs on Villanova's floor, and it remains the only loss in Big East play for the Wildcats. Will they be able to take down the Xavier Musketeers and beat the college basketball odds?

That's not to say 'Nova players hung their heads in disappointment and dwelled on the defeat. Indeed, the Wildcats bounced back nicely from the rout to bring a 3-game win streak into Monday's contest in Philadelphia against the visiting Xavier Musketeers.

FOX Sports 1 will carry the contest from The Pavilion starting at 7 PM (ET). Villanova went out as 10 point chalk on the overnight lines, and remains there roughly 12 hours in advance of the tip. SBR's live NCAA basketball odds still hasn't sniffed out a total, but I'm setting mine at 141.5 points.

Monday's matchup is the first between the schools as conference foes, and first since early in the 2006-07 campaign when the 'Cats and Musketeers collided during the Paradise Jam down in the US Virgin Islands. Xavier took that battle behind a big game from Stanley Burrell, 71-66.

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X-Men Out To Halt 2-Game Skid

It hasn't been a lot of fun recently for Chris Mack and Xavier (15-6 straight up, 13-6 against the spread). The Musketeers reach the City of Brotherly Love having dropped two straight, and three of their last four to fall to 5-3 in the conference standings, and they've suddenly lost their touch from 3-point range.

Xavier is coming off a disappointing setback at home to Seton Hall on Saturday, a game in which the Musketeers were favored by eight only to fall by that same margin. The Pirates came away with nine steals and four blocks, and got far more production from the bench with a 25-7 scoring advantage in that column.

The Musketeers don't rely heavily on offense from way outside, but they only netted 2-of-14 tries vs. Seton Hall a game after hitting 3-of-18 in a loss at Providence. Xavier went into those matchups sinking better than 38% from beyond the arc, and had just experienced a 4-game stretch hitting no worse than 49% from long-range.

Mack's troops have certainly shown the ability to connect from outside, as in their 64-47 spanking of Cincinnati in mid-December when the Musketeers swished 11-of-16 from 3-point land. They're definitely going to have to shoot better against Villanova on Monday...or do a better job getting the ball inside to 6-10 center Matt Stainbrook than they did this past Saturday.

'Nova Returns Home From 3-Game Roadie

Maybe it was a good thing for Villanova (19-2 SU, 14-5 ATS) to leave Philly after the loss to Creighton. The results would certainly indicate so; the Wildcats are returning home with three consecutive road wins in their hip pocket, and appear to have rediscovered their shooting touch as well as improving the perimeter defense that let them down vs. the Bluejays.

The first victory was a solid performance at Marquette as 2.5 point chalk, and that was followed by a 65-60 decision at Georgetown a week ago that pushed the 5-point opening spread. The 'Cats then hung a 90-74 score at Temple where 'Nova backers were giving up 10.5 this past Saturday.  Senior wingman James Bell paced four Wildcat starters in double figures with 19 points.

Both teams are sporting 'over' marks for the season, 'Nova a healthy 14-5 to the high side and Xavier 10-8. And that's the way I'm going to play it for my free college basketball pick.

College Basketball Pick: Xavier-Villanova Over 141.5

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