Sweet 16 underdogs are 21-10-1 against the spread over the last four NCAA tournaments, which would seem to bode good for those thinking about backing sixth-seeded Xavier in its battle against second-seeded Arizona in the second West Regional semifinal Thursday night in Los Angeles.
Musketeers-Wildcats Betting Odds
The NCAA Tournament odds opened Arizona as a 10-point favorite for this game, then added a half-point to that spread in the early betting. Also, some books opened the total as low as 134, others as high as 136. That total then gravitated to right around 135.5 in the early action.
Going by Sagarin's PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com the Wildcats should be favored by 8.5 points.
Bettors who believe Xavier might win this game outright could get +568 on the moneyline at 5Dimes.
Xavier opened this tournament last Thursday with a 76-57 victory over Ole Miss, easily covering the spread as a two-point favorite. The Musketeers grabbed an early double-digit lead and never let go, taking advantage of a Rebs team in a letdown spot.
Xavier then advanced to this Sweet 16 with a 75-67 victory over Georgia State Saturday, covering at -6. That game was tied early in the second half, but the Musketeers used a 7-0 run to regain control, and held off the upstart Panthers from there. On the night Xavier shot a hot 68 percent from the field, made seven of 13 three-pointers and 22 of 25 free-throws.
So the Musketeers have made it to the regional semis for the fifth time in the last eight seasons.
Xavier is also now 10-7 SU, 9-6-1 ATS this season against teams that made the Big Dance.
Arizona began this Dance with a 93-72 victory over Texas Southern, although it declined to cover the spread as a 23-point favorite. The 'Cats led by 21 at the half, and by 26 with three minutes to go, but let the cover slip away in those last moments.
'Zona then reached Thursday's play with a 73-58 victory over Ohio State last Saturday, covering at -10. The Wildcats only led by a point at halftime, but pulled away from there. For the game Arizona only shot 37 percent from the floor, but hit 20 of 24 free-throws and won the battle on the boards by a 43-26 margin.
So the Wildcats, in the Sweet 16 for the third straight season, own a 13-game winning streak, going 10-3 over that span, covering double-digits eight times. Arizona is also now 12-0 SU, 7-5 ATS this season against teams that made the NCAA Tournament.
Musketeers-Wildcats, By the Numbers
Arizona is shooting 49 percent from the floor this season, which ranks in the top five in the country, while holding opponents to just 39 percent shooting. The Wildcats are also out-rebounding foes by nine per game, which also ranks in the top five.
Xavier is shooting 48 percent from the floor, while allowing opponents to shoot almost 44 percent. The Musketeers are also out-rebounding opponents by about four per game.
Muskeeteers-Wildcats Betting Trends
Xavier is an amazing 20-3-1 ATS over its last 24 NCAA tournament games.
Xavier has played nine UNDERS in its last 12 games, thanks mainly to some pretty good defense by the Musketeers.
Arizona has played four UNDERS in its last five games, also thanks to some good defense.
Before this game the most Xavier has been dogged by this season came back in January, when as a 9.5-point dog it lost at Villanova 88-75.
Arizona is 9-8 ATS this season when favored by 12 points or less, but 14-6 ATS when favored by more than 12 points. Go figure.
Musketeers-Wildcats Free Pick
Arizona wore Ohio State down last Saturday, as it's done to many other foes this season, and we get the feeling the Wildcats will do something similar to Xavier Thursday night, so add them to your NCAA tournament picks.
Free Sweet 16 Pick: Arizona -10.5 at Pinnacle