NCAA Basketball Picks for Thursday: Big East Showdowns

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, December 31, 2015 12:07 PM UTC

Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015 12:07 PM UTC

It's the final day of 2015 and the NCAA basketball odds on Thursday clearly belongs to the Big East as its opening day features the only two Top-25 matchups on the day.

No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 16 Villanova
It's an early noon tipoff from the Pavilion. With Michigan State's loss to Iowa on Tuesday night, Xavier (12-0) might have a claim to the No. 1 spot in the polls next week if the Musketeers, off to the best start in school history, can win here. They have played a pretty solid non-conference schedule in beating the likes of Michigan, Alabama, USC, Dayton and Cincinnati all by double digits. Xavier is off a 78-70 win at Wake Forest on Dec. 22. Edmond Sumner is the reigning two-time Big East Freshman of the Week. He's averaging 11.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. The No. 6 ranking is already Xavier's highest ever. This is one of the nation's top rebounding teams, averaging plus-12.9 per game, No. 4 nationally. Villanova (10-2) is coming off a 77-57 win over Penn on Monday. Nova scored the first 14 points and 32 of the first 35. Freshman guard Jalen Brunson established a new season high with 22 points for the Wildcats. Villanova was just 1-of-11 from 3-point range (.091) but 24-of-40 from inside of it (.600). Forward Kris Jenkins did play through a sprained knee and had two points in 19 minutes. Villanova leads the all-time series with Xavier 21-4, including wins in all five of the meetings since the two teams became Big East rivals in 2013-14 season. The Wildcats are 6-7 all-time when hosting a Top-10 opponent at the Pavilion. The Wildcats are 10-4 ATS in their past 14 at home vs. teams with a winning home record. The favorite is 6-0 against the NCAA basketball odds in the past six meetings.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Villanova -4.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage


No. 12 Providence vs. No. 9 Butler
Once you finish off that  Xavier-Villanova game, you can switch over for this terrific matchup ahead of the first College Football Playoff semifinal. Providence (12-1) finished non-conference play with a 90-66 win at UMass on Dec. 21, meaning the school hit 12 wins before Christmas for the first time ever. Sophomore Ben Bentil had his sixth 20-point game of the season and third double-double with a career-high 32 points to go with 13 rebounds. He is your surprise leading scorer in the Big East at 18.8 points per game. All-American guard Kris Dunn had 14 points, 11 assists and six rebounds after missing the previous two games. The Friars are 1-1 vs. ranked teams this season, beating Arizona 69-65 in California and losing 77-64 to Michigan State also in California. Butler (11-1) stomped IUPUI 92-54 on Monday. The Bulldogs shot 50 percent from the floor and got a game-high 19 points from Kelan Martin.  This will be a rarity at storied Hinkle Fieldhouse as it will be only the second game ever there between a Butler team and an opponent both ranked in the Top 15. The other was on Jan. 19, 2013, when Roosevelt Jones -- still one of Butler's best players -- hit a floater at the buzzer as No. 13 Butler defeated No. 8 Gonzaga 64-63. Providence is 3-1 all-time vs. Butler. The teams split two games during the 2014-15 season with each winning close on the road. Providence is 2-5 ATS in its past seven following an ATS win. Butler has covered 22 of its past 32 at home vs. teams with a winning road record, add the Bulldogs to your NCAA Basketball picks.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Butler -7.5
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker


BYU vs. Saint Mary's 
BYU (9-4) is an independent in football but a member of the West Coast Conference in basketball and this will be the Cougars' WCC opener. They come off an impressive 84-76 win over Northern Iowa -- which has beaten Top-10 teams North Carolina and Iowa State -- on Christmas in Hawaii. BYU's Chase Fischer led all scorers with 26 points. Kyle Collinsworth  tied his career-best with 16 rebounds to go along with 12 points for his fifth double-double of the season. Collinsworth passed Fred Roberts, Brandon Davies and Greg Kite to move into fourth place all-time in rebounds at BYU with 854. Fischer had a career-high 41 points the game before, a win over New Mexico. Saint Mary's (11-1) has already played two WCC games and won them both easily, over San Francisco and Santa Clara. The Gaels lead the WCC in 14 statistical categories and lead the nation in field-goal percentage at 53 percent. They are No. 3 in the nation in 3-point percentage as well. SMC was picked to finish fourth in the WCC. BYU leads the series with Saint Mary's 11-7 but is 2-4 in Moraga. The teams split last season, each winning by double digits at home.  BYU is 1-4 ATS in its past five on the road. SMC is 6-0 ATAS in its past six vs. teams with a winning record. 

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Saint Mary's -5.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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