Xavier vs. Villanova Pick NCAA Hoops – Dec 31st + BONUS PICK

It was a good day for road teams as conference play commenced in several leagues. Big Ten teams like Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern all got road wins – granted over lesser opponents, but still, any road win in conference is a nice token in the pile. The same can be said for a pair of Big East schools, Georgetown and Seton Hall, who went into Marquette and after playing even for a half took advantage of great defense/disastrous shooting to hold Marquette to 23 points in the second half en route to an 83-63 victory (and an unfortunate loss for us).

Several more high profile teams will be trying to grab impressive road wins today as two top tier Big East teams go on the road against Top Ten conference foes. It’s not the greatest day in college hoops overall, but the Big East is showing out big time for the final day of 2015, so let’s see if we can cash it in on the final day of the year.

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Today’s Free Picks:

Xavier Musketeers at Villanova Wildcats -4.5

The Musketeers may be ranked sixth and unbeaten but Vegas knows well who the reigning power of the BEast is and what was expected of the Wildcats. Villanova has failed both of their two major tests this season, getting routed by both Oklahoma and Virginia and gets a third today. The biggest difference is that this game will be in their friendly home gym, but I am not sure it will be enough.

Villanova has more familiarity, but it is impossible to ignore the 2015 results. They have gotten blasted by both good teams they have faced. Xavier is definitely at LEAST a good team, and maybe a great one. They have passed every test with aplomb and have racked up quality wins all year long. Dayton, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, USC, @Michigan, Auburn, Alabama –and most with extreme ease and double-digit margins. Granted, aside from Cincinnati it is hard to say any of those teams have had a great season or show tremendous promise, but the point is, Xavier hasn’t ducked anyone.

Villanova has been untouchable in the new Big East, winning each season’s title. They may very well do it again, but they better win today. I think no matter what we are going to get a close game. Xavier is balanced enough to withstand any tough offensive stretches and rebound with ferocity. I think they have a real shot today on the road, but I’ll at least take them with the 4.5 cushion.

Free Pick: Xavier Musketeers +4.5


Providence Friars at Butler Bulldogs -7.5

For all the success in Butler’s history, especially recently, this is only the second time in Hinkle Fieldhouse history pitting two top 15 teams (that included Butler). It should be quite a show. Kris Dunn and the Friars have just a single loss in a well-played game against then-#1 Michigan State. They are efficient with the basketball, averaging just 10 turnovers compared to over 15 forced and they have gotten great play from emerging Robin to Dunn’s Batman, Ben Bentil (who is actually the Friars’ leading scorer).

Meanwhile, Butler has won eight straight games since their tough loss to Miami, including wins against Purdue in Indianapolis and Cincinnati on the road. This is unquestionably a good team, but I am not sure they are quite as good as #9 in the country. I’m frankly surprised they are laying as many points as they are today. It should be a competitive game today, and given how well road teams have fared the first few days of conference play, I am not sure I’m willing to lay this many points on a game that analyzes more like a pick ‘em on a neutral floor.

Look for Dunham to struggle with Dunn and for Bentil and Roosevelt Jones to be a push inside. Butler has the slight edge, especially at home, but this is a really even matchup. Providence is 3-0 ATS on the road this season. Butler is 4-4 ATS at home. I like a close game in a really entertaining day of BEast hoops.

Free Pick: Providence Friars +7.5