Xavier is more than capable of securing its second win over a Top 25 team this season when Villanova invades the Cintas Center. Indeed, the Musketeers are a profitable 14-5 ATS versus teams with a winning record, 10-2 ATS versus teams who are outscoring their opponents by eight or more points and 19-8 ATS as underdogs. Xavier continues to be undervalued by the oddsmakers as evidenced by the fact that the Musketeers are 35-22 ATS over the last two seasons, including 7-0 ATS as home underdogs, 23-12 ATS versus conference opponents and 9-2 ATS when seeking to avenge a road loss. Let’s also note that Xavier just defeated No. 9 Creighton last Saturday at Cintas Center, where the Musketeers are 188-26 (.879) lifetime and 15-1 (.938) this season.
Xavier brings a balanced team to tonight’s game as the Musketeers are 3.7 points per game better than average offensively (72.2 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 68.5 points per game) and 5.1 points per game better than average defensively (67.1 points per game to teams that would combine to average 72.2 points per game). However, as alluded to earlier herein, Xavier is a significantly better team when playing within the friendly confines of Cintas Center. Specifically, Xavier is averaging 75.4 points per game on 49.1% shooting from the field and 37.7% from beyond the arc at home, while also limiting opponents to a mere 63.0 points per game on 39.9% shooting from the floor.
From strictly a fundamental standpoint, Villanova possesses a 3.8 points per game advantage offensively and a 2.6 points per game advantage defensively over the Musketeers. But, those numbers need to be qualified by the fact that Villanova’s offense has been struggling recently (71.8 points over L/5 games), while the Wildcats’ defense is yielding nearly 74.0 points per game on the road. My math model only favors Villanova by 2.5-points, but I get a fair line of 3.5-points after taking into account the loss of junior center Matt Stainbrook for the Musketeers. Stainbrook suffered a strain of the MCL in his left knee during the first half of Xavier’s game at Seton Hall last week and is listed day-to-day.
Sports bettors who discount Xavier at this juncture of the season are making a big mistake as the Musketeers are actually ranked among the top teams in the Big East Conference in many categories, including rebounding margin (1st at +5.2), field goal percentage (2nd at.473), three-point field goal percentage (3rd at .364) and scoring defense (3rd at 67.1). Xavier also possesses excellent depth as nine players are averaging 12 or more minutes per game this season as compared to only seven players who averaged just 9.0 or more minutes per game last season. Finally, Xavier has been significantly better at the free throw line in league play – shooting 72.3% in Big East action – compared to 63.6% in non-conference battles. Xavier is looking tom avenge a humiliating 81-58 loss at Villanova last month, and I believe the Musketeers have the talent to keep this game close throughout. Grab the points and invest with confidence.