It’s a classic college basketball pick: The No. 2 Arizona Wildcats are too chalky for Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup with the underrated No. 11 Xavier Musketeers.
West Region, Sweet 16, San Jose, Thursday, 10:10 p.m. ET
NAT TV: TBS
You know it’s March Madness when a No. 11 seed makes it all the way to the Sweet 16. But what if that 11 is the Xavier Musketeers (23-13 SU, 17-18 ATS)? This team is way too good to be given the Cinderella treatment. Ken Pomeroy has Xavier ranked No. 30 in Division I according to efficiency; that’s just 12 spots below the Arizona Wildcats (32-4 SU, 19-14-3 ATS), who got in as a No. 2 seed in the West Region.
It’s easy to see where our NCAAB picks are going from here. Arizona is a 7.5-point favorite at press time for Thursday’s matchup (10:09 p.m. ET, TBS) with Xavier, and if the betting market is indeed undervaluing the Musketeers that should show up in the computer projections for this result. To the information superhighway!
If we stick with Pomeroy’s advanced stats (the free ones, that is), he has got Arizona rated about 6.5 points better than Xavier per 100 possessions. And this isn’t the NBA; each of these slowpokes will get in about 66 possessions Thursday night, overtime notwithstanding. Let’s be generous to the Wildcats and call it 4.5 points.
It’s not journalism without multiple sources. FiveThirtyEight likes the ‘Cats to win this game 68 percent of the time, just a tad below Arizona -5.5 using the numbers at Wizard of Odds. Those numbers were generated using winning probabilities from the NBA, but they should be close enough for government work. By the way, these projections don’t know that Wildcats freshman guard Rawle Alkins (+8.7 BPM) will be playing with a dislocated and partially-broken right index finger – that’s his shooting hand.
My associates Sklansky and Malmuth taught me that anytime the college basketball odds are two points off, you’ve got a sweet bet right there. These are the games we dream about. There might even be a 57 percent chance we cash in on Xavier here. Just don’t forget about the other 43 percent of the time Arizona covers and makes me look foolish.