Wednesday College Basketball Odds, Pick, Predictions: Villanova Wildcats vs. Xavier Musketeers Betting Preview

Wednesday College Basketball Odds, Pick, Predictions: Villanova Wildcats vs. Xavier Musketeers Betting Preview article feature image

Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Gillespie.

  • Villanova is a slight road favorite in a huge Big East matchup against Xavier in Wednesday's action.
  • The Musketeers have impressed early this season, but any conference title ambitions go through Villanova.
  • Shane McNichol breaks down the matchup below and delivers his betting pick.

Villanova vs. Xavier Odds

Wednesday, Jan. 12
6:30 p.m. ET
Villanova Odds
-110o / -110u
Xavier Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Wednesday brings us the most critical game in the race for the Big East regular-season championship.

If perennial top dog Villanova is going to relinquish its spot atop the standings, Xavier is the most dangerous challenger. On Wednesday, the Musketeers welcome the Wildcats to Cincinnati for a showdown at the Cintas Center.

Villanova won the first meeting between these teams, on its home floor in the Philadelphia suburbs. Xavier has not beaten Villanova on the road since joining the Big East nearly a decade ago. To make up for that loss and remain a threat to steal Villanova's crown, this is close to a must win for Xavier.

It would be possible for Villanova to sweep Xavier but finish behind the Musketeers in the Big East standings. Without too many other threats to win the conference, though, it's hard to see how that could happen.

Xavier has all the motivation, but Villanova will be ready. Where can bettors find value in this battle?

Villanova Wildcats

The first time these teams met, Villanova gave Xavier a chance.

The Wildcats shot just 28% from long range and a shaky 65% at the free-throw line. That's as bad a shooting day as you can expect from Villanova on their home floor, yet Xavier failed to capitalize in two key areas.

First, Xavier failed to make shots itself, sinking only 6-of-23 for 3-point range. More importantly, the Musketeers defense was unable to adjust to Villanova's attack and allowed the Wildcats to dominate inside the paint. Jay Wright loves to run post-up action on the block, especially for his guards who are taught how to score or distribute from that position.

Against Xavier, Villanova had tons of success in the post. Big man Eric Dixon finished with 15 points on eight field goal attempts, and Villanova's All-American guard Collin Gillespie was a perfect 6-of-6 inside the arc.

Gillespie is the key cog for Villanova. According to on/off data from Hoop Explorer, Villanova's offense shoots a lower percentage both inside and outside the 3-point arc when he's off the court.

Perhaps more troubling, Villanova shoots fewer 3s when he's sidelined. Gillespie's work as a creator with the ball in his hands drives so much of Villanova's offensive opportunities. His teammates rely on his playmaking to create high-quality jump shots.

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Xavier Musketeers

In Travis Steele's fourth season in the head chair at Xavier, he has built a team with relatively few flaws. The Musketeers have size, experience, balance, and can beat teams on either end of the floor.

Super senior Paul Scruggs is the point of attack on the offensive end of the floor, yet the Musketeer offense extends well beyond him.

Seven Xavier players are averaging between 8.5 and 13 points per game. Wherever a matchup dictates, the Musketeers are capable of taking advantage.

The downside to that level of balance is finding the right option late in the shot clock or in crunch time. That role had defaulted to Scruggs by nature of his seniority and experience in the offense, but when faced with a top tier defender or extra attention from the opposing defense, there's a bit of a vacuum for Xavier.

It's great to have any of the five players in your lineup be able to score, yet when push comes to shove sometimes, you need to know what the hierarchy looks like offensively.

Villanova vs. Xavier Betting Pick

Villanova goes as Collin Gillespie goes. If he is active offensively, either scoring himself or creating looks for his teammates, Villanova's offense is at its best. When he is bogged down by extra defenders, a shaky shooting night, or foul trouble, Villanova sputters.

In the first meeting between these two teams, Xavier did not contain Gillespie. They let him dictate the flow of the game. Back at home in the Cintas Center with a raucous crowd, the Musketeers could be more up to the task.

For my money, that variable isn't worth betting against Villanova. In the new Big East, I'll favor the Wildcats until proven otherwise, especially when Jay Wright can rely on someone like Gillespie.

If the line gets to Xavier +3.5, there's some value on the Musketeers. Otherwise, I'll play it safe with the Villanova moneyline, with an eye on a live bet if the Wildcats get off to a cold shooting start but look ready for the road environment.

Pick: Villanova ML (-135)

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