No. 25 Xavier will try to remain undefeated when it faces fellow unbeaten Iowa State at the NIT Season Tip-Off on Wednesday night. The Musketeers have already picked up a win over then-No. 19 Ohio State this season, entering this tournament with a 4-0 record. Iowa State is 4-0, but this will certainly be its toughest assignment so far.
Musketeers coming off blowout win over Norfolk StateNo. 25 Xavier is off to a hot start this season, picking up four consecutive wins to open the season. It barely escaped its opener as a 17-point favorite over Niagara, but it was able to pull out the 63-60 victory. The Musketeers were much better in their second contest, winning and covering in a 73-59 win over Kent State. They built on that momentum with their best showing of the young season, knocking off then-No. 19 Ohio State as 2.5-point underdogs. Xavier was dominant in its fourth game, blowing the doors off Norfolk State in an 88-48 win as a 16.5-point favorite.
The Musketeers are currently sitting at No. 35 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. They have dealt with some turnover issues, giving the ball away on more than one out of five possessions. Their strength has been on the offensive glass, where they rank No. 35. It has been an expected development, as Xavier is one of the taller teams in college basketball. Guard Paul Scruggs leads the team with 15.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Guards Colby Jones, Adam Kunkel and Nate Johnson are all scoring in double figures as well. Jones is pulling down a team-high 9.5 rebounds per game. They are going to face an Iowa State defense that is the strength of its team, sitting inside the top 40 in opponent’s field goal percentage, turnover rate and rebounding percentage.
Cyclones off to much better startIowa State has already doubled its win total from the entire 2020-21 season. The Cyclones only won two games last year, with both of them coming early in non-conference play. They are off to a 4-0 start this season, beating Kennesaw State, Oregon State, Alcorn State and Grambling. It has not been an overly difficult schedule, but Iowa State has been able to do something it failed to do last year—take care of business. The Cyclones were only 1-point favorites in the win over Oregon State, so that was a quality win. They easily covered the 15.5-point spread in the 82-47 blowout over Grambling over the weekend.
KenPom is not high on Iowa State’s offense, listing them at No. 173 in adjusted efficiency. The Cyclones are having turnover struggles of their own, giving it away on 20.5% of their possessions. They have slightly more experience than Xavier, but both teams are just outside the top 100 in that category. Guard Izaiah Brockington leads Iowa State with 13.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Guards Tyrese Hunter and Gabe Kalscheur are both scoring in double figures as well. They are going to face a Xavier defense that is No. 35 in adjusted efficiency and is No. 13 in opponent’s effective field goal percentage.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Iowa State might have already doubled its win total from last season, but there is nothing that suggests they are underrated in the betting market. The Cyclones have covered the spread in two of their four games, so they are on a normal pace as far as that is concerned. They have also played a very weak schedule—I need to see them have success against a quality opponent before I am ready to get on board. Xavier is going to have a big size advantage on Wednesday night and it has now covered in three straight games.
Full-Game Total Pick
The Iowa State offense was putrid last season. It looks like the Cyclones are going to be better on that end of the court this year, but I still have no interest in backing them to get over the total. They are shooting just 30.2% from the 3-point line, which is actually slightly better than Xavier (29.7) to this point. Iowa State is a solid defensive team, listed at No. 56 in adjusted efficiency. The Musketeers are even stronger, so this should be a low-scoring game. The total has gone under in five of Iowa State’s last seven games, while Xavier has gone under in five of its last seven as well.