The Xavier Musketeers were on the bubble a week ago. Now, they’re in the championship game of the Big East tournament. Can they put up a really good fight and challenge the Villanova Wildcats.
The Xavier Musketeers Can Win Because…
Their opponent showed signs of weakness on Friday night in the Big East semifinals. Villanova hit just 7 of 23 three-point shots against Providence. The Wildcats are a backcourt-oriented team. They expect their guards to hit threes, but when they don’t, Villanova can become very ordinary very quickly. Villanova could not create much of any space on the scoreboard due to its inability to get hot from three-point land. The Wildcats didn’t have to shoot 23 threes, but they chose to, and that’s the ledge on which this team lives. If Xavier can bother Villanova enough on defense and contest three-point shots, it could very easily win this game.
Xavier’s defense is in a very good position right now. The Musketeers are making it hard for other Big East teams to score, at least in this tournament in New York. In the quarterfinals of the tournament, the Musketeers held Butler to 39-percent field goal shooting and just 7 of 24 three-pointers, under 30 percent. In the semifinals on Friday night against Georgetown, Xavier limited the Hoyas to 40-percent shooting and just a 5 of 19 three-point performance. At this time of year, everyone is familiar with everyone else in conference games. These teams play each other for two months in January and February, so in March, the scouting reports are fairly familiar. Effort and energy are important on defense, and Xavier’s clearly working very effectively when it comes to denying opponents easy and uncontested shots.
The Villanova Wildcats Can Win Because…
They are the better team in a matchup with Xavier which is why NCAA Basketball odds have placed them as tonight's favorites. Villanova is the top seed in this tournament, Xavier the sixth seed. Villanova has been a lot better than the rest of the Big East all season long, but what’s also worth pointing out is that the Wildcats have been good at responding to challenges. Villanova did struggle against Providence in the semifinals of this tournament, but the Wildcats were able to win when not playing anywhere near their best. Villanova’s starters scuffled, but reserve guard Josh Hart hit 7 of 10 field goals and scored 18 points to pick up his teammates. That’s the hallmark of a really good team. The main stars weren’t at their best, with Darrun Hilliard hitting just 5 of 13 shots and Ryan Arcidiacono making just one field goal attempt out of five tries in 30 minutes. Yet, Arcidiacono hit two winning free throws with under four seconds left to push the Wildcats past Providence. This team has lost only twice all season, and it just keeps figuring out ways to win. Expect Villanova to play better and with less pressure in this game compared to the semifinal against Providence, in which case the Wildcats should cruise.
The idea that Villanova will play poorly two straight nights is not very probable. Expect the Wildcats to be near their very best, in which case Xavier has very little chance. Take Villanova with your college basketball picks.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Villanova -7.5 at Bovada