The game of the week in college basketball is from the Big East on Saturday afternoon as No. 3 Villanova visits No. 4 Xavier. The winner likely will claim the Big East regular-season title and top seed in the conference tournament. A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament also is in play. Check back for the latest NCAA Basketball betting odds.
NCAA Basketball Betting Preview & Pick: Villanova at Xavier
— Xavier Basketball (@XavierMBB) February 16, 2018
When: Saturday, 4:30 PM ET
Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Radio: 950 AM (Villanova) / 700 AM WLW (Xavier)
Opening NCAA Basketball Betting Lines: TBA
The first game in Philadelphia on Jan. 10 was a laugher as Villanova rolled to an 89-65 win – Xavier hasn’t lost since. Phil Booth hit five 3s and scored a career high 21 points while Jalen Brunson had 17 for lead Nova; Booth has since been lost to injury. Villanova jumped out to a 22-9 lead and never looked back. Xavier stars Trevon Bluiett and J.P Macura were terrible in the first half and could not stop Nova from dominating. The duo went 3-for-11 from the floor. Kerem Kanter led Xavier with 16 points. Xavier committed 15 turnovers leading to 18 points for the Wildcats, while only forcing eight VU miscues for six points.
Why Bet on Villanova?
The Wildcats (23-3) are in a mini-slump in losing two of three. They were stunned 76-71 at unranked Providence on Wednesday. It was Providence’s first win over Villanova since Jan. 24, 2016. With the victory the Friars greatly improved their at-large resume for the NCAA tournament.
Mikal Bridges had 19 points for Villanova, but fouled out with 1:12 to play in the game. Jalen Brunson added 14 points. Villanova pulled within 59-54 on a pair of free throws by Omari Spellman with 6:25 left. But the Friars outscored the Wildcats 8-4 over the next two minutes to push the lead back to 67-58.
The Wildcats entered the game averaging 11.5 made 3-pointers per game (No. 3 in Division I) and averaged 40.8 percent from deep (No. 4 among major conference teams). They were just 3-for-20 vs. Providence. The Wildcats trailed for most of the game and each time it seemed like they started to make a run, especially in the second half, no one hit a key 3. Guard Phil Booth’s absence since fracturing his right hand late last month has clearly had an impact.
Booth’s absence also has damaged Villanova’s perimeter defense as he was the Wildcats’ biggest ballhawk and one of their better on-ball defenders. Collin Gillespie has taken much of Booth’s playing time, and while the freshman is an excellent shooter, he is a defensive liability. Nova surrendered 49 points after intermission. It was the 14th time this season that Villanova had allowed 40 or more points in a half.
- Average Score For: 87.15
- Field Goals: 50.60%
- Three Points: 40.06%
- Free Throws: 76.35%
- Rebounds: 35.38
- Average Score Against: 70.58
- Field Goals: 43.44%
- Three Points: 33.58%
- Free Throws: 73.07%
- Rebounds: 32.77
Why Bet on Xavier?
Villanova has won nine of 10 games against Xavier, but the Musketeers have won nine straight since that loss. Xavier has the more favorable remaining schedule after Saturday, meaning a Musketeers victory would all but clinch the Big East title and further solidify a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Musketeers beat Seton Hall on Wednesday, 102-90. Trevon Bluiett scored 37 points — three shy of his career high — and the Musketeers let most of a 25-point lead slip away before holding on. Bluiett missed all of his four shots from beyond the arc and finished with a season-low six points during a win at Creighton last Saturday. Against Seton Hall, he was 8 of 11 beyond the arc, one shy of the school record for 3-pointers made in a game. Naji Marshall added a career-high 20 points. Xavier went 14 of 29 from beyond the arc while topping 100 points in a Big East game for the first time.
Seton Hall opened the second half with a 9-2 run and closed the gap to 47-34, but then three 3-pointers by the Musketeers extended their lead to 56-39 at the 15:44 mark. Bluiett had six of the Musketeers’s nine points during the first four minutes. Bluiett, who eclipsed 1,000 career points in Big East play in the game, said he learned of the Villanova loss mid-game.
“I think one of the managers said something about it at halftime,” Bluiett said.
The Musketeers improved to 16-0 at home this season, which ties the school record for most home wins in a season. The last time Xavier won 16 games at home was in the 2007-08 season where they went 16-1 at home. Xavier’s all-time winning percentage at Cintas Center is ranked fifth in the nation.
Xavier, a 2017 NCAA Elite Eight team, has made it to at least the Sweet 16 six times in the last 10 years, one of only nine schools that can say that. XU is one of only eight schools have been to at least 11 of the last 12 NCAA tournaments.
- Average Score For: 85.33
- Field Goals: 49.94%
- Three Points: 37.63%
- Free Throws: 77.30%
- Rebounds: 38.44
- Average Score Against: 74.63
- Field Goals: 42.36%
- Three Points: 33.71%
- Free Throws: 74.42%
- Rebounds: 31.59
Latest NCAA Basketball Betting Trends
- Villanova is 6-3 ATS in the last 9 games
- Villanova is 22-3 SU in the last 25 games
- The total went OVER in 6 of Villanova’s last 7 games
- Xavier is 6-1 ATS in the last 7 games
- Xavier is 5-0 SU in the last 5 games
- The total went UNDER in 4 of Xavier’s last 6 games when playing Villanova
Expert Prediction & NCAA Basketball Pick
Villanova clearly misses Booth, who may or may not be back for the Big East Tournament. Xavier wins outright.