The Xavier Musketeers would have been in big trouble in terms of making the NCAA tournament if they had lost to the Creighton Bluejays last Saturday in the regular season finale. However, they escaped with a one-point win. Now they’re a 1.5-point dog on the college basketball betting lines facing Butler.
The Xavier Musketeers Can Win Because…
If Xavier wins, a few things will be mentioned as the reasons why. First of all, Xavier was the best shooting team in the Big East Conference, better than regular season champion Villanova. The Musketeers hit 47.7 percent of their shots, putting them in the national top 25 in that category. The team was first in the conference and 13th in the nation in two-point percentage at 53.9, which is tremendous. The team hits 73.5 percent of its free throws, best in the league and 35th in the country. Xavier just knows how to shoot, and as a result, it scores very consistently. The Musketeers ranked second in the conference and 29th in the nation in points scored per possession, at 1.088. Because Xavier made so many shots, the Musketeers naturally ranked highly in assists per game – first in the league and fifth in the whole country, in fact, with 16.9. Xavier is just a really, really good offensive team.
Butler doesn’t shoot two-point shots well, either. The Bulldogs hit just 47.2 percent of their twos, which is ninth in the Big East and 202nd in the country. Xavier can take away the three and play Butler for the two.
The Georgia Bulldogs Can Win Because…
The Bulldogs have to love the fact that Xavier ranked eighth in the Big East’s three main shooting-based defensive categories: overall shooting percentage, two-point percentage, and three-point percentage. The Musketeers, as good as they were on offense this season, were just as bad on defense, which is why they were a bubble team for much of the season and might still become one if they lose this game. Xavier ranked a very ordinary sixth in the 10-team Big East in points allowed per possession, with 0.989. That was 148th in the country. Xavier was eighth in the Big East and worse than 200th in the country in blocked shots per game, with only 2.9. Xavier was only seventh in the Big East, and 128th in the country, in turnovers forced per game, with 12.7. Butler has to think that it can attack Xavier’s defense relentlessly and with great success.
Roosevelt Jones is a player for Butler who averages 12.9 points per game and is great at getting to the basket. He can cause Xavier’s defense to collapse into the paint. This will set up teammate Kellen Dunham, a 42.4-percent three-point shooter, for outside shots. Butler, thanks to Dunham, is second in the Big East in three-point shooting at 36.1 percent. The Bulldogs should be able to get the shots they want as long as Jones has his way against Xavier.
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This is about Xavier’s offense against Butler’s defense on one hand, but the key might be Butler’s offense against Xavier’s suspect defense. Butler does more things better than Xavier, and that will be the difference. Take Butler with your NCAA Basketball picks.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Butler -1.5 at The Greek