Betting Xavier-Hall, Plus Three Mid-Major Showdowns
© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Today, I’ll take an in-depth look at the following four matchups:
- Seton Hall at Xavier (-5.5): Can a struggling Seton Hall team bounce back?
- Davidson at VCU (+3): An intriguing schematic matchup in the A10.
- Missouri State at Southern Illinois (-3.5): A potential slugfest in the Valley.
- Nevada at Boise State (-3.5): The biggest MWC game of the year.
Also, if you are looking for more info on Kentucky-Auburn, make sure to check out our betting guide. And as always, follow me on twitter @jorcubsdan for in-game analysis, injury updates, and second half predictions.
Seton Hall at Xavier (-5.5)
9:00 PM Eastern
I’m not a fan of this Seton Hall team. It has a surprising lack of urgency and defensive intensity for a team that starts four seniors that have played together for all four years. During its current three game losing streak, Seton Hall’s defense has surrendered an unsightly 1.25 points per possession (ppp). However, I see a few reasons the Pirates can right the ship tonight, despite heading into a hostile road environment against a team currently projected as a No. 1 seed by the NCAA selection committee.
1) Historical precedent. Typically, Seton Hall’s rugged frontcourt has fared well against Xavier. Angel Delgado ate XU up on the offensive glass in both meetings last year. And despite being limited ofensively in the first meeting this year, he pulled down 18 boards. In that game, Seton Hall blew a 10 point second half lead, as the defense vanished down the stretch.
Desi Rodriguez has also presented matchup issues on the wing for Xavier when Kevin Willard uses him as the ball handler in pick and roll. Rodriguez has exploited the questionable ball screen defense of JP Macura, Tre Bluiett, and Quentin Goodin. Frosh Naji Marshall was actually Chris Mack’s best option in the first meeting, as his long arms and defensive intensity forced Rodriguez into several turnovers. As a result, I could see Marshall getting 25-30 minutes tonight, but he does tend to lose focus of his role in the offense. Mack will have to decide early if he wants to trade buckets for defense.
2) Potential defensive improvement. I previously mentioned SHU’s poor recent defense, which has been a pattern under Willard. They lose focus for stretches of games, then respond by playing up to their defensive potential. Nearly a calendar year to the day, Seton Hall’s defense had been torched by St. John’s, Creighton, and Villanova during a 1-2 streak. It then came out and shut down Xavier, holding them to 64 points in 65 possessions.
So are the defensive issues correctable? I believe so, but it starts with Myles Powell and Khadeen Carrington, who have been sieves on the perimeter. That has forced uber defender Ish Sanogo up to cover mistakes in pick and roll defense, which makes the Pirates simultaneously weaker at the rim. They can’t afford those mistakes against Xavier, which attempts shots at the rim at the 17th highest rate in the country.
3) Xavier’s situation. The Muskies are coming off two OT wins and a wild/controversial finish at Creighton. They also host Villanova on Saturday, which has been a silverback gorilla on their proverbial back. I’m not the biggest “situational” guy in the world, but I think it applies here. I expect to see a desperate Seton Hall team compete with more defensive intensity tonight.
The PICK: Under 159 (Lean Hall +5.5)
Davidson at VCU +3 (7:00 pm ET) VCU can’t afford to keep pressing on nearly a third of their defensive possessions, especially against a Davidson team that turns the ball over at the ninth lowest rate in the country and scores in the 90th percentile out of their press offense, per Synergy. Additionally, VCU is a solid pick and roll defense in the halfcourt with their athleticism, but Davidson doesn’t run pick and roll, as McKillop’s offense runs about a million scissor cuts and pin down screens crammed into the span of about 15-20 seconds. That spells trouble for a VCU team that has struggled to defend far lesser motion offenses (see Richmond and GMU), even at the Stu.
Defensively, Davidson will have their issues against Justin Tillman, as no post defender in the A10 can check him. And certainly not Davidson’s Oskar Michelson. However, McKillop has notably gone to a base zone defense. VCU’s zone offense has been mediocre, grading out in just the 50th percentile nationally. VCU has also only shot 32% from 3 in A10 play. PICK: Davidson -3
Missouri State at Southern Illinois -3 (8:00 pm ET) Both rivals suddenly find themselves on hot streaks. Missouri State head coach Paul Lusk’s seat, while still hot, scorched during a five game losing streak that also saw Missouri State lose two key role players during a bizarre unsanctioned cryotherapy incident. The Bears have since rattled off two straight wins in impressive fashion, as Alize Johnson has taken control of the offense. Johnson has looked like the MVC POY and potential lottery pick he was projected as in the preseason. Lusk also recently started (mainly out of necessity) Mustafa Lawrence, who has been a spark plug after being mostly relegated to mop up duty. Lawrence has shot 13-24 from 3 in his past four games.
SIU meanwhile has won six of seven, with the lone loss coming in OT at Illinois State. They defeated Missouri State on the road during that streak, despite Johnson posting a 29/12/4 line. SIU now also has a somewhat healthy Jonathan Wiley, whose defensive versatility is key. He can drop down on Johnson in double teams or switch out on the perimeter against wings. Neither offense is known for their three point prowess, but they combined to go 19-40 in the first meeting. With both Hinson and Lusk relying on defense to spur their recent strong play, I suspect this game falls back into the category of “MVC rock fight”. PICK: Under 137
Nevada at Boise State -2.5 (11:00 pm ET) Huge Mountain West showdown. The Pack won the first meeting a back and forth battle, despite playing with a hobbled Cody Martin (arguably the best defender in the MWC). His inability to stay on the floor in the first meeting allowed Chandler Hutchison to run wild in pick and roll, scoring 27 of Boise’s 68 points. Now for the rematch, his twin brother Caleb Martin (arguably the best player in the league with Hutchison) is hobbled with an achilles injury. He was projected to miss at least a week, but made a surprise start against SDSU. Nevada was clearly energized by his return, even if he couldn’t stand on two legs during timeouts and had to make multiple locker room trips.
Side note: the Martin twins compliment each other perfectly. Caleb is an elite scorer and Cody is an elite defender (it also helps they are both 6’7).
Defensively, Boise State will extend a soft 3/4 court trapping zone press before often falling into a 2-3 zone. Despite Nevada’s poor perimeter shooting in its past three games, the Pack are a tough team to zone. In fact, Nevada scores 1.12 pp in its zone offense, per Synergy. That grades out in the 98th percentile nationally. I suspect Boise will have to go man to man, which spells doom against Eric Musselman’s positionless brand of NBA style spread pick and roll. The Broncos haven’t lost at Taco Bell Arena all year, but the Pack present too many matchup issues. PICK: Nevada +2.5
Wednesday Pick Summary
Xavier-Hall Under 159
Missouri State/SIU Under 137