NCAA Tournament Picks: Ole Miss vs. Xavier in Opening Round

Darin Zank

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 1:08 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2015 1:08 PM UTC

Ole Miss came up with a big rally to win a “play-in” game Tuesday night. Do we ride the Rebs and Big Mo when they tangle with Xavier in the West Region's 6-vs.-11 game Thursday afternoon in Jacksonville? Or play the fade?

Musketeers-Rebels Betting Odds
The NCAA Tournament odds have Xavier as short betting favorites for this matchup and going by Sagarin's predictor ratings at the Musketeers should be favored by 2.5 points for this game.


Musketeers-Rebels: The Match-Up
Coming into this season we had our doubts as to whether Xavier would make the NCAA Tournament again. The Musketeers missed the Dance last year, then lost their top two scorers. But by going 9-9 in Big East play this season, and making a run to the conference tournament championship game, Xavier earned an at-large berth. So the Musketeers are Dancing for the second straight season.

Xavier has been playing in fits and spurts lately; since beginning conference play the Musketeers have won two in a row three times, and three in a row once, and lost two in a row three times. Xavier won four out of five back in February, then lost two in a row, then beat Creighton in the season finale to finish .500 in the Big East. The Musketeers then knocked off Butler and Georgetown in the conference tournament, before losing the championship game to Villanova 69-52.

On the season Xavier is 8-7 SU, 7-6-1 ATS against teams that made the NCAA tournament. Throw out the three losses to Big East dual champion Villanova and those numbers improve to 8-4 SU, 7-3-1 ATS.

Ole Miss just pulled off a great comeback victory, rallying from 17 points down at the half to beat BYU in a “first-round” tournament game Tuesday night in Dayton 94-90. The Rebs gave up 49 points in the first half, as the Cougars shot the hell out of the ball from long range, but charged back in the second half, as BYU began to cool. In the end Ole Miss shot 45 percent from the field, and won the turnover battle 15-7.

Before this season started we figured the Rebs would finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the SEC, and would probably miss the Big Dance for the second season in a row. Instead, Ole Miss
went 11-7 in SEC play, finishing in a four-way tie for third place in a conference that sent five teams to this NCAA Tournament, and maybe should have sent six.

The Rebs won eight of nine games on a run into mid-February, but they're only 2-4 both SU and ATS since then, losing at home to Vandy in the regular-season finale, then by a bucket to South Carolina in their first game in the SEC tournament. Then they trailed BYU by 17 Tuesday night. Ole Miss might consider itself lucky to be playing Thursday.

On the season, including Tuesday night's victory/cover, the Rebs are 5-7 SU, 6-6 ATS against teams that made the Dance.


Musketeers-Rebels, By the Numbers
Ole Miss is shooting just under 43 percent from the floor this season, but 77 percent from the FT line, which is great for a college team. The Rebels are also holding foes to 40 percent FG shooting.

Xavier is shooting 47 percent from the floor, while allowing opponents to shoot almost 44 percent.


Musketeers-Rebels Betting Trends
Ole Miss is leaning toward the OVERS this season by a 16-12 margin, as Rebs games are averaging 141 points.

Xavier is leaning toward the UNDERS by an 18-14 margin, even as Musketeers games are also averaging 141 points. Xavier has also played eight UNDERS in its last 10 games, in part because it's been playing some nice defense.


Musketeers-Rebels Free Pick
We got lucky and benefited from Ole Miss' comeback Tuesday night, but now we wonder if the Rebs haven't shot their wad, so to speak. Coming back from 17 points down takes a lot of energy, and it's hard to tell if that momentum will carry over to Thursday, or if Ole Miss will come in cold. Our guess is the latter is more likely to happen than the former. So we like the Musketeers as our NCAA tournament pick, we'll say by six or seven points as we expect them to advance to the second round where they'll meet the winner between Georgia State vs. Baylor.

Free NCAA Tournament Pick: Xavier -2 at 5Dimes

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