NCAA Basketball Pick: Xavier Musketeers vs. St. John’s Red Storm

LT Profits Sports Group

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 5:00 AM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 5:00 AM UTC

Two bubble teams trying to cement their berths in the NCAA Tournament square off in the Big Apple when the St. John’s Red Storm host the Xavier Musketeers Tuesday.

The underdogs could have some value in a Big East clash of NCAA Tournament bubble teams Tuesday night when those Xavier Musketeers (18-9, 3-5 away) pay a visit to the St. John’s Red Storm (18-10, 13-3 home) at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Xavier as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +6½ with odds of -117.

Both of these teams are looking to play their way into the Big Dance, but this game could mean more to Xavier as the Musketeers are looking to bounce back from a 74-52 blowout loss at Georgetown on Saturday and are lacking in quality wins this season, as they have just one win over a team currently in the Pomeroy Top 25 with that being their in-city arch rivals the Cincinnati Bearcats.

St. John’s has the better current form of these clubs despite both being at 18 wins, as the Red Storm had a six-game winning streak snapped in a game road effort at Villanova where they were nipped 57-54 on Saturday. St. John’s also has the best win for either of these schools when it beat Creighton two weeks ago, so the Red Storm can probably still afford to lose one more game and still go Dancing, while Xavier may not have that luxury.

While the Musketeers have come up short vs. quality competition nearly every time this season save for the win over Cincinnati and a two other wins vs. Pomeroy Top 50 teams in Tennessee out of conference and this St. John’s team in Big East play back home in Cincinnati 70-60 in their conference opener, the selection committee places an emphasis on recent play, so completing a sweep of St. John’s at this late stage of the season would help their cause.

And it is not as if Xavier is lacking in ability as it does rank 34th in the country in offensive efficiency, and it is third in the conference in that category during Big East play thanks to ranking fourth in the conference in effective field goal percentage, second in offensive rebounding percentage and second in FTA/FGA percentage.

All of that has still netted a 47th ranking overall for the Musketeers compared to a 29th ranking for St. John’s, but the first win over the Red Storm should give Xavier confidence here that it can complete the sweep.

Besides, while St. John’s is a respectable 88th in the country in offensive efficiency, that still lags well behind Xavier nationally and the Red Storm are just seventh in the conference in that category. The Red Storm are not a good shooting team ranking a dismal 210th in effective field goal percentage at just 48.8 percent, and indication of the great job Coach Steve Lavin has done to get this team to 18 wins.

The Red Storm shot a miserable 31.3 percent in the first meeting including hitting on only an unfathomable 14 of their 54 two-point attempts (25.9 percent), and they were outrebounded in the game 45-32. Unfortunately neither of those occurrences was that much of an anomaly as St. John’s is 183rd in the country and dead last in the Big East in defensive rebounding percentage, which could again lead to a ton of second-chance points by a Xavier team that crashes the glass.

Add this all up and taking the points with Xavier seems like the prudent move at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.


NCAA Basketball Pick: Xavier +6½ (-117)

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