NCAAM Pick December 6, 2020 – Xavier Musketeers at Cincinnati Bearcats

Even with as good as we have been running to start out this college basketball season, you are going to take some bad beats. That was the case last night when we backed the Utah State Aggies at home against the BYU Cougars. The public had moved the number four full points towards BYU, and instead of having to lay wood in the game, I got to back the Aggies at home, getting a point.

When I looked back on the last two seasons for Utah State and realized that they had only lost twice at home, I felt that even though they are a bit down this season, that they were the side to be on. I expected a tightly contested game that was going to come right down to the wire, but home dogs are always a favorite play of mine, so I fired on the Aggies and expected them to take care of business.

The game was just as tightly contested as expected, as this game was tied with under a minute left to play. The variance is always going to be high in a game this close, this late, but with less than a minute left to play, you are always going to want to be on the home team and the side getting points, and we had both things going for us last night.

Unfortunately, BYU made their shots down the stretch, and Utah State didn’t. The Aggies had a chance to tie the game up at the free throw line with just 12-seconds left to play, but freshman Rollie Worster couldn’t hit the second of two free throws, and BYU took advantage of it and sealed the game with two of their own made free throws, with just seconds left on the clock. The Aggies had a good look to tie the game at the buzzer and send it into overtime, but it fell short, and we took a tough beat.

What can you do, I liked the spot, and after watching the game play out, I am happy that we were on the side getting points, not laying them, but the variance just didn’t break or way. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will look to get right back on track as we head to Cincinnati for a rivalry game between the Bearcats and the Xavier Musketeers.

Today’s Game

  • Xavier Musketeers (5-0) at Cincinnati Bearcats (1-0)
  • Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati
  • 12:00 PM PST
  • TV: ESPN

The Cincinnati Bearcats host their crosstown rivals, the Xavier Musketeers, today in a non-conference matchup. The Bearcats have played just one game so far this season, picking up a win over Lipscomb, and would love to knock off the Musketeers today, as they are going to need quality victories on their resume on Selection Sunday. Cincy is expected to finish in the top half of the AAC this season, and they find themselves squarely on the bubble at the moment, currently ranked 57th on kenpom.

For Xavier, the Musketeers are in a similar position, as they are looking like a bubble team at the outset of conference play. Xavier was picked to finish 7th in the Big East this year, which in a testament to just how great the Big East is, just might be good enough to send them dancing. You can throw the records out when these two teams meet as there is always bad blood between these programs in one of the nastiest non-conference rivalries in the country.

Spread:

  • Xavier Musketeers (+1.5)
  • Cincinnati Bearcats (-1.5)
Money line:

  • Xavier Musketeers (+100)
  • Cincinnati Bearcats (-120)
Total Points:

  • Over 136.5 (-110)
  • Under 136.5 (-110)

Xavier Musketeers (5-0)

Don’t let that 5-0 record fool you, this Xavier team has a lot of work to do this year if they are going to make the NCAA tournament. The Musketeers underwhelmed last year with a team that was expected to compete for a Big East title. They lost a lot of the talent from that team, as guys like Naji Marshall, Tyrique Jones, and Quentin Goodin are gone, and Travis Steele is looking for ways to replace all of that production.

It is hard to ever be too critical of a team that is undefeated, but when you look at who these wins came against, none of them were over top-100 teams. And while I don’t believe in luck, you might say that the Musketeers have gotten a little bit lucky, as many of their wins came in the last seconds of games, despite playing weak competition. Xavier beat 117th ranked Bradley by one point. They beat 178th ranked eastern Kentucky in overtime, and they picked up a win over 101st ranked Toledo by just three points. Will their luck run out tonight against the Bearcats?

Cincinnati Bearcats (1-0)

The Bearcats got off to a slow start to their schedule, as they have only played one game, but that might give them a nice advantage in this one, as the Musketeers have been playing basically every night. The Bearcats will take every break they can get, as they are going to need to overachieve if they want to finish near the top of the AAC standings this year.

Cincy lost Jarron Cumberland and Jaevin Cumberland, but they still have an experienced rotation. Their starting five is comprised mostly of upperclassmen, with senior Keith Williams being the leader. Williams returns as a great defender and capable scorer and could end up taking home All-AAC honors at the end of the season. He didn’t play well in the Bearcat’s first game of the season against Lipscomb, but I expect him to be much better tonight at home.

Who Do I Like?

These teams are very evenly matched. They both are expected to be down a bit, and the winner of this game could end up deciding which one of these teams goes dancing in March, as the bubble is going to be brutal this year with the limited schedules, and quality non-conference wins are going to be hard to come by. It is awfully early in the season to start calling games must-win, but I will tell you that whichever team loses this game today, will wish they had it back in March.

So, in a closely matched affair, where do I see the advantage? Size, defense, and athleticism. The Bearcats are one of the bigger teams in the nation, and they play hard on defense. They block a lot of shots, and they make teams work hard for every bucket. The Musketeers used to run an elite offense under former head coach Chris Mack, but with Travis Steele running the show, this offense just hasn’t been the same, and I expect them to struggle to score efficiently.

The Bet

Xavier doesn’t get to the line much, and when they get there, they don’t make nearly as many of their free throws as you would like. In a game that is going to be won in the trenches, I just see the Bearcats finding a way to out-tough Xavier. This game will feel different than any of the previous 87 times these teams have matched up in this battle for supremacy in Cincinnati, as there won’t be fans in the stands, but I won’t completely discount home floor advantage in this one.

Expect an emotional game, where the Musketeers run out of gas late against his big physical Bearcats team. Cincy has only played one game all season long and haven’t had to leave their home floor yet this year. They are going to be rested and ready today. Xavier? They played five games in eight days, and they are going to be gassed out in the second half.

This rivalry game is rarely ever a blowout, and I doubt we will see the Bearcats blow their doors off today either, but when those Musketeer’s legs get heavy in the second half, you can expect some flat shots, and missed scoring opportunities. Cincinnati will take advantage of it and coast to a victory. Give me the Cincinnati Bearcats, laying a point and a half today at home against Xavier!

The Bet: Cincinnati Bearcats -1.5

My Pick
Cincinnati Bearcats -1.5
Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL