Featured Video from Scott Steehn
The #1 seed Villanova Wildcats will collide with the #4 seed Xavier Musketeers in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament Friday evening from Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats notched a 73-62 win over Providence in their quarterfinal win on Thursday afternoon, and the Musketeers came through with a narrow 63-61 victory against Creighton in their quarterfinal matchup. Villanova notched an 85-75 home win over Xavier in the first meeting this season, and the Musketeers replied with a 66-54 home win of their own in the second clash.
Xavier’s Defense Shines in Quarterfinal Win vs. Creighton
The Xavier Musketeers played stellar defense in their 63-61 win over Creighton in their quarterfinal contest on Thursday afternoon. The Musketeers only converted on 43% of their field goals, although they limited Creighton to a 40% shooting performance. Zach Hankins was tremendous in the winning effort, registering 22 points along with nine rebounds. The senior forward is tough to contain down low, and he has posted at least a 62% clip from the field in four consecutive games. Hankins is averaging 10.5 PPG and 5.3 RPG on the season.
Musketeers’ top scorer Naji Marshall made his return to action in Thursday’s win with an 11 point performance after missing the regular season finale. The sophomore forward has shot below 43% in three consecutive games, and he is sporting an average of 14.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG. Marshall scored 15 and 17 points respectively in two games against Villanova this season.
— Xavier Gameday (@XavierGameday) March 14, 2019
The Musketeers are red-hot, winning seven out of their last eight games which included a win against Villanova in that span. Xavier is not currently projected to be awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN’s Bracketology, and they are ranked 64th overall in Ken Pomeroy’s college basketball rankings. Xavier is averaging 72 points, ranking them 191st in the country. The Musketeers are allowing an average of 70.6 points, placing them 163rd overall.
Villanova Silences Friars in Quarterfinal Win
The #25 Villanova Wildcats head into this semifinal clash having won three out of their last four games. Villanova opened their tournament action with a hard-fought 68-62 win against Providence in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon. The Wildcats shot a weak 37% from the field while holding Providence to a 5 for 20 clip from beyond the arc. Eric Paschal played a big role in the victory, registering 20 points along with 10 rebounds. The senior forward has collected a total of 18 rebounds along with 34 points in his last two games, and he is averaging 16.7 PPG and 6.2 RPG on the year.
Wildcats’ top scorer Phil Booth contributed with 13 points on 5 for 11 shooting in Thursday’s win. The senior guard has only scored a combined 29 points in his last two games, and he is averaging 18.4 points and on a 43% field goal efficiency. Booth scored 22 and 14 points respectively in two games against Xavier this season.
— Villanova MBB (@NovaMBB) March 14, 2019
Villanova is currently placed as a #6 seed in ESPN’s latest update of Bracketology, and that seeding will improve if they win the Big East Tourney. The Wildcats are scoring an average of 74.6 points, ranking them 121st in the country. Villanova is playing solid defense right now, and they are holding opponents to 66.9 points, good for 58th in the nation.
The Villanova Wildcats are:
- under is 6-1 in their last 7 neutral site games.
The Xavier Musketeers are:
- 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games against the Big East.
- 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games against a team with a winning percentage above .600.
- 20-8-2 ATS in their last 30 neutral site games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I am taking the points with Xavier in this contest. Xavier is one of the hottest teams in the entire Big East, winning seven out of their last eight games overall. They are playing terrific defense, conceding 69 or fewer points in six out of their last eight games overall.
Furthermore, Villanova only shot 37% from the field in their win against Providence on Thursday, and they have scored 73 or fewer points in five out of their last seven games. Xavier was able to shoot a stellar 51% in their 66-54 win over Villanova in their latest meeting, and I am confident backing them in this one.
Prediction: Xavier Musketeers
Full-Game Total Pick
I am selecting the under in this matchup considering the defensive play between these two teams. Xavier’s defense has been their greatest strength in their recent winning ways, and they have limited their last two opponents to 68 and 61 points respectively in their last two games, plus the under is 7-3-1 in their last 11 games overall.
In addition, Villanova is also displaying strong defensive play. They have conceded 66 or fewer points in four out of their last five games, plus the under is 5-1 in their last 6 games following a straight up win.
Full-Game Prop Bet
I am confident Xavier can neutralize Villanova’s offense in this contest. Xavier limited the Wildcats to only 54 points on 34% shooting in their previous meeting. Also, the Wildcats are only averaging 68.8 points in their last five games overall.
Prediction: Villanova Team Total: Under
Half-Time Total Bet
I am staying with the under on the halftime total. Both teams continue to play excellent defense in the opening half. Villanova has limited their last three opponents to an average of only 31 points, and the Musketeers have only allowed an average of 32.3 points in their last three games.