Butler Bulldogs (12-3) at Xavier Musketeers (14-1)
Well, folks, we are officially red-hot picking men’s college basketball games! Last night was our fourth straight win and eleven out of our last thirteen as I was on Texas -3. We got a little lucky last night as this game went into overtime before the Longhorns pulled away and won 74-70, covering the spread and keeping the winning streak alive. Today we will shift our focus to the Big East, in a matchup that features two teams that are tied for the conference lead, Butler, and Xavier.
The Butler Bulldogs will head to Cincinnati to face the Musketeers of Xavier in a Big East conference battle. The Musketeers are -7-point home favorites tonight. The game total over-under is set at 155 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Butler Bulldogs could not be feeling any better about themselves as they are coming into this one fresh off beating the number one team in the land, Villanova. The Bulldogs have won nine out of their last ten games, and it has been against some stiff competition. Wins over Ohio State, Villanova, Utah, and Georgetown, have thrust the Bulldogs into the limelight.
There weren’t many people mentioning Butler’s name as a national title contender this year, or even really as a Big East title contender, but there are now. Right now, Butler is tied with Xavier atop the Big East standings, and if they could pull off the upset tonight, they would be in the driver’s seat to take home the regular season Big East title.
The Bulldogs don’t have any bad losses on the season as their only losses are to Maryland, Texas, and Purdue, all teams that should be playing in the NCAA tournament this season. Butler is led this year by senior forward, Kelan Martin. Martin is averaging 19 points and seven rebounds a game. He had 24 points against Villanova to pull off the big upset. As has been a trademark of the Bulldogs over the last decade, they seem to always have great upperclassmen leadership, this year is no exception.
Xavier might be the best team in the country. I personally don’t think that is the case, but they are a top-five squad that is absolutely a threat to win the national title this year. Usually, Xavier is a squad that flies below the radar somewhat until March, not this year.
The Musketeers have played a brutal scheduled already this year, and now they are headed into Big East conference play. A league that may very well be the best in the country. Wins over Baylor, Cincinnati, Northern Iowa, and Marquette have shown that Xavier can play and beat any team in the nation.
The Musketeers have always prided themselves on the defensive side of the ball, but this team is all about offense. They are one of the highest scoring teams in the country at 86 points a game and are shooting a sizzling 51% from the field as a team. They are even better from the line, currently ranked number two in the nation from the charity stripe at over 80%. This team can score, they play defense, they pass the ball, they are going to be a very, very tough out in March.
And to top it all off, they have a legit star running the point in Trevon Bluiett. Bluiett goes for twenty a game while shooting north of 40% from behind the arc. The one game that Xavier lost this year, to a very good Arizona State team, Bluiett was a non-factor, scoring just eleven points on 4-10 shooting. When Bluiett is on his game, the Musketeers are near impossible to beat.
So, both teams are good. They both have lots of great wins and no bad losses. That is Big East basketball in a nutshell for you this year, the league is chalked full of talented teams and conference play is going to be a bloodbath. So, what sticks out to me as a defining factor in this one? I just think this will be a close game. Xavier is undoubtedly the better team, don’t let the win against Villanova fool you, Butler is good, they aren’t elite. Xavier is elite. But Xavier hasn’t been blowing teams out this year.
Wins against Depaul, Marquette, Northern Iowa, East Tennessee State, Baylor, and Wisconsin were all competitive games that Xavier won by ten points or less. The Musketeers are going to beat you, they just aren’t going to run it up on you. Butler plays a similar brand of basketball as many of their games have come down to the wire as well.
I expect a battle tonight. Two good teams fighting it out until the last couple of possessions, that exemplifies just how tight the top of the Big East standings are this year. I do believe that Xavier will find a way to win, but I have to stick with the hot hand right now in Butler. Seven points just seems like a little too much for Xavier to cover. I’ll back the Bulldogs and hope for a tight game or a big upset. Give me the Butler Bulldogs tonight plus seven points!