The No. 11 Xavier Musketeers are busting brackets nationwide. Can they overcome Saturday’s college basketball odds in the West Region and beat the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs to reach the Final Four?
West Region Final, San Jose, Saturday, 6:09 p.m. ET
NAT TV: TBS
I love it when a plan comes together. Not only did the No. 11 Xavier Musketeers beat the spread Thursday night, they also beat the Arizona Wildcats straight-up 73-71 as 7.5-point puppies. The sharp side doesn’t always pay, of course, but with this year’s March Madness handle up around 30 percent at some books, the college basketball odds have been that much easier to exploit – especially in matchups like this one.
Alas, we had to settle for a push in the other Sweet 16 game from the West Region. The No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (-3) went down to the wire with the West Virginia Mountaineers before prevailing 61-58; that’s three games Gonzaga has failed to cover at this tournament. Why do I have a feeling we’re going to stick with Xavier for Saturday’s contest (6:09 p.m. ET, TBS)?
Or maybe not. We went straight to BetOnline to get the opening odds for this Elite Eight tussle, and it has Gonzaga favored by 8.5 points. The fine folks at FiveThirtyEight project Gonzaga as a 78 percent favorite, which translates right around 8.5 points at Wizard of Odds. So much for profit margin.
Let’s ask the same question the sharps ask: What does Ken Pomeroy say? His efficiency stats have the ‘Zags worth about 15.5 points more than the Musketeers over 100 possessions. They might play 68 possessions on Saturday, and that’s about 10.5 points according to my calculator watch. So now you’re telling me Gonzaga should be in our NCAAB picks. Good gravy.
Maybe Sports Reference can project us out of this. According to their Simple Rating System, Gonzaga (+25.13 SRS) plays almost exactly 10 points better than Xavier (+15.16 SRS) per game. You know, this could be one of those situations where the betting public is going to overdo it with the so-called Cinderella team. Two out of three stat nerds agree. Oh, and the spread’s already dropped to eight points just as I write this. Bless you, stat nerds. You are the wind beneath my wings.