Seton Hall Pirates (17-8) at Xavier Musketeers (23-3)
We picked up a big win last night out of the SEC. We backed the Missouri Tigers at home against the Aggies of Texas A&M. This game was an exciting one that came down to the last couple of possessions. The Tigers led by just one point with a minute left on the clock and were able to pull away slightly and hold on for the 62-58 victory and cover.
The Tigers opened as +1-point home underdogs, and just about everyone figured that was a bad number and the line actually closed out at Missouri -2.5. That is a big line move for a regular season college hoops game. Home underdogs are a favorite play of mine in league games, and this one paid off yet again.
This was a big win for the Tigers as they have now solidified their place in the NCAA tournament. And I really don’t see this loss hurting the Aggies too much. This was a hard-fought loss to a good team on the road, they won’t get punished for it. Today I will shift gears from the SEC to the Big East as I highlight the matchup between the Seton Hall Pirates and the Xavier Musketeers.
The Pirates of Seton Hall will travel to Cincinnati to face the Musketeers of Xavier Wednesday night in a Big East showdown. The Pirates find themselves squarely on the bubble as they are losers of three straight games and six out of their last nine. The Pirates seemed like locks for the tournament just a couple of weeks ago as they have several big wins, but they could badly use another resume-building win to stop the bleeding on this losing streak.
For Xavier they aren’t sweating an NCAA tournament bid, they are fighting for the number one overall seed. The Musketeers made the top line in the NCAA selection committees sneak peak earlier in the week, and they would love to hold on to that elusive one seed. The Musketeers are -5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 159.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from the Cintas Center.
Xavier came completely out of nowhere this year to rise to the top of the Big East standings. They actually were selected to finish behind this Seton Hall team in the preseason Big East coach’s poll. What a difference a couple of months make as not only are the Musketeers leading the Big East, they find themselves as a projected one seed in the NCAA tournament. The Big East regular season title will come down to Saturday’s matchup between Xavier and Villanova, as both teams are tied in the loss column atop the Big East standings.
The Musketeers are a high scoring and good shooting team that can pass the ball and rebound. They have no real weakness, and they feature one of the best players in the Big East in Trevon Bluiett. Bluiett is averaging 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists a game, all while shooting 43% from beyond the arc and 82% from the charity stripe.
The Big East has always been a guard-heavy league, and Bluiett is one of the best. They will need a good effort from the senior guard tonight if they want to pick up a big conference win against a tough Seton Hall team.
Seton Hall is a good basketball team. They just aren’t quite as good as the best teams in the Big East this season. The Pirates had a great non-conference season as they beat a very good Texas Tech team, as well as a solid Louisville squad. Their Big East season started out well too as they beat Creighton, St. Johns, and Butler to start out 3-0 in league play. But since then it has been a struggle for the Pirates, and wins have been hard to come by.
Losses to Marquette, Creighton, Xavier, Villanova, and Georgetown, say more about how good the Big East is this season than they do about the Pirates. Seton Hall was able to pick up wins against Georgetown and Providence during that tough stretch, but they are seeing their tournament hopes fading fast as they sputter to the finish line.
To make matters worse, the remaining schedule for the Pirates is brutal. They still have games against Villanova, Butler, Providence and an all the sudden tough to beat St. Johns team on the road. The only game left on the schedule where I think the Pirates will be heavy favorites will be at home against Depaul. If they go 1-6 down the stretch, they can kiss their NCAA tournament dreams goodbye.
These teams matched up at Seton Hall on January 20th. The Pirates were hot early and opened up a double-digit lead only to fade on their home court and eventually drop the game73-64. I see tonight’s game playing out very similarly. I think the Pirates will give their best effort, but I also think they are clearly outmatched. If the Pirates couldn’t hold them off on their home court how are they ever going to get it done on the road? Especially at Xavier, that is 15-0 on their home floor this season.
I expected this number to be in the 8-9-point range and was surprised to see it so low. Maybe the books think Xavier is looking ahead to this weekend’s big matchup with Villanova? Maybe they think that Xavier is going to be a little overconfident after seeing that are currently on the top line of the NCAA tournament bracket? Whatever the case may be, I love Xavier in this game. They are the better team, playing great at the moment, and are at home where they literally never lose.
Give me the Xavier Musketeers -5-points tonight.