Xavier Musketeers (12-1) at Marquette Golden Eagles (9-3)
We saw our six-game winning streak come to an end just before the holiday break when UCLA was able to beat Kentucky in a major upset in the Big Easy. I will look to get us back on track today, as I zero in on a major battle in the Big East Conference, between Xavier and Marquette.
The Xavier Musketeers will travel to Milwaukee to face the Golden Eagles of Marquette tonight in a matchup up Big East Conference foes. Xavier enters this game at 12-1, ranked number six in the country. The Musketeers are amongst the hottest teams in the country, riding a seven-game winning streak.
The Golden Eagles of Marquette are sitting just outside the top twenty-five, and with a win would likely see themselves in the rankings once again. The Golden Eagles have won seven out of their last eight games. Xavier is a -2.5-point road favorite tonight. The game total over-under is set at 161 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 PM PST from the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
The body of work that the Xavier Musketeers are putting together so far, this season is quite impressive. Their lone loss was to an Arizona State team that may very well end up being the best team in the country, so it is completely excusable. Xavier has wins over Baylor, Cincinnati, and Northern Iowa in their last seven games. All three of those teams are NCAA tournament caliber squads, it has been an impressive run.
Xavier does just about everything well on the offensive side of the ball. They are top five in the country in field goal percentage and free throw percentage and are averaging over 86 points a game. To beat this Musketeers team, you really have to be able to run and gun with them and beat them in a shootout. The lone loss to Arizona State was to a team that leads the nation in scoring. That’s the formula to beat them, there just are not many teams that are going to be able to deliver 90+ points on a given night.
The Musketeers are led by senior guard Trevon Bluiett. Bluiett loves to jack up threes and is averaging close to 19 points a game. The four-year starter for Xavier is shooting a sizzling 45% from behind the arc and is the prototype of a player you want to lead you into the NCAA tournament. Big, strong, fast, and can shoot from deep. If Xavier is going to make a deep run in March, they will do it behind the shooting of Trevon Bluiett.
The Marquette Golden Eagles haven’t played much of a non-conference schedule this season. They played a couple of decent teams in Wichita State, Georgia, and Purdue, but they lost to all of those teams. The best win of the season so far for Marquette, is a win over LSU at the Maui Invitational. It remains to be seen if the Golden Eagles can hang with the elite in the Big East this year.
I am not going to say this is the best the Big East has ever been, I remember the days before they broke up the conference, that the Big East was a threat to get ten teams or more into the NCAA tournament. But, that being said, this is a very good conference this year, maybe the best in the country.
Just a quick glance at the standings and you can see Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, and Creighton in the rankings, and you have a couple of other teams in Georgetown, St John’s, Butler, Marquette, and Providence just outside the rankings and ready to pounce. There really is no weakness, top to bottom, in the league this year.
Taking a road team laying points in a conference game in the Big East is something that is going to get you crushed this year. The home underdogs in conference are going to be some of my favorites bets this season. I just haven’t seen enough out of Marquette that shows me they can be remotely competitive with a team like Xavier.
Xavier is good, like really, really good. They are going to challenge Villanova for the Big East title this year. Its hard to say they are being overlooked as they are ranked number six in the country, but I am not hearing a lot of chatter about his team, and I should be. This is a legit Final Four caliber team.
These teams have very similar styles. They like to play a fast-paced, up-tempo game and score a lot of points. They both shoot very well and make a lot of their free throws. I just see Xavier as being a little better at everything than Marquette.
I expect a close and competitive game that goes down to the last couple of possessions. I just think that Xavier, in the end, will be a little too much for Marquette and will sneak out of the Bradley Center with a hard-fought victory. Feels like somewhere in the range of 88-81 Xavier. Give me the road team laying a couple points tonight!