Xavier vs Marquette Odds, Picks: NCAAB Betting Guide for Big East Showdown
Greg Fiume/Getty Images. Pictured: Stevie Mitchell and Tyler Kolek
Xavier vs Marquette Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
There has been a war at the top of the Big East standings this year, with a new group of contenders looking to step forward.
Among that group of contenders, the Xavier Musketeers and Marquette Golden Eagles have stood out as the two most dynamic and competitive teams in the top quadrant of the conference, and they meet in a huge Big East battle on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.
They currently sit in a tie for first place. The top seed at Madison Square Garden is available for the taking, with no game mattering more in that chase to date than this one.
Against the other heavyweights in the conference, Xavier has proven itself worthy of a Big East title. In six games against the other four Big East teams ranked in the KenPom top 40, Xavier is 5-1. In the web of head-to-head matchups between those five teams, the home teams have held serve at an impressive rate, currently 11-1 (prior Tuesday’s Creighton-Providence game).
The lone road win was Xavier’s victory at UConn, putting the Musketeers in the driver’s seat for a Big East championship.
Xavier, however, did its part to squander its advantage in the standings, losing single-possession road games at DePaul and Butler.
Now the Musketeers find themselves in a dogfight in the standings down the stretch, playing without second-leading scorer and usage-rate leader Zach Freemantle, sidelined with an injury and hoping to return by the postseason.
Freemantle’s place in the lineup is capably filled by Jerome Hunter, yet he brings a different role to the offense. Freemantle is a capable shooter and mobile off the bounce, whereas Hunter is more of a presence in the paint. That shifts what Sean Miller asks of center Jack Nunge, pulling him away from the basket to make room for Hunter.
Issues on the offensive end mounted in Xavier’s last outing — its third game without Freemantle — a loss at Butler. The Musketeers posted their worst points per possession mark of the year, due to 18 turnovers and just five bench points from a now painfully shallow crop of reserves.
Shaka Smart’s team is playing to the rubric so far in conference play. The Golden Eagles are unbeaten at home in conference play, with road wins against every team they’ve played from the bottom half of the conference. In three tries to win a road game against a fellow contender, Marquette has come up empty, dropping games to Providence, Xavier and UConn.
This team makes its name on the offensive end of the floor, a revelation for a team coached by Smart. In 14 years as a head coach, Smart has never had a team rank higher than 20th nationally in offensive efficiency and has never had a team in the top 50 of 2-point shooting percentage. This year’s Golden Eagles are third in offensive efficiency and shooting the best percentage on 2-pointers in the country.
A lot of that success is driven by an unselfish lineup, filled with capable scorers and creators who can adapt to whatever a defense shows them. Tyler Kolek ranks fourth in the nation in assist rate, constantly creating shots for others. David Joplin is a tough cover for any defense. Kam Jones is shooting 70 percent inside the arc as a 6-foot-4 guard. Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Oso Ighodaro are both skilled enough to score against an opponent’s weaker defensive big man.
Marquette is 20-6, with two overtime losses and three more regulation losses by five points or fewer. A blowout loss at a desperate UConn team was Marquette’s only dud this year. Smart has this team consistently motivated and molded to fit whatever the game script dictates.
Xavier vs. Marquette Betting Pick
To pick Xavier here means one of two things. You are either counting on the Musketeers to once again buck the trend of dominance among the home teams or you think Marquette wins a close enough game that the points here are worth grabbing.
Without Freemantle in the lineup, I have a hard time imagining the former scenario and this line simply isn’t big enough for me to trust the latter. That is threading a mighty fine needle.
Instead, I’ll lean towards Smart and the Golden Eagles at home, forgetting the spread and taking a moneyline number that has a modest amount of value. It’s far from a sexy pick, but in what should be a back-and-forth battle until late in the second half, I’ll take it.
Pick: Marquette Moneyline (-230 or Better)
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