College Basketball Odds, Picks & Predictions for Xavier vs. Providence (Wednesday, February 23)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Al Durham.
- Nate Watson and the Providence Friars are set to host Jack Nunge and the Xavier Musketeers in Big East action tonight.
- KenPom says the Friars have been extremely lucky to win as many close games as they have, so they're installed as short favorites here tonight.
- Check out our analyst’s betting preview and top pick below.
Xavier vs. Providence Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
If you’re looking for evidence of the parity across college basketball this season, look no further than Xavier’s current position on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
In fact, that’s misleading. College basketball’s middle tier is so watered down this season that Xavier doesn’t appear to be anywhere near the danger of the bubble. Bracket Matrix currently has the Musketeers listed as a No. 7 seed, with all 132 bracket projections included in their aggregation placing Xavier in the field of 68.
That is a bit surprising for a team under .500 in conference play, having now lost four of its last five.
Xavier will have its chance to bounce back starting Wednesday with the Providence team that has bettors, analytics, and eye-test junkies all at each other’s throats. The Friars are 22-3 but have 13 wins by eight points or fewer.
As the horses of the Big East charge into the backstretch leading to the conference tournament in New York, games like this one provide a major boost to whoever can wrestle away a win.
With all the talent on this Xavier roster that returned with plenty of experience, the Musketeers have had a fairly uninspiring season to date.
The Musketeers are 5-8 against KenPom’s top-50 teams, though they have lost six of the last seven contests against that level of competition. Only one of those top-50 wins came on the road, and it was a victory over 50th-ranked Oklahoma State, which is just 13-14 this season and banned from the NCAA Tournament.
Xavier has only four wins over tournament-level opponents in Big East play — home wins over Marquette and UConn — plus a sweep of the very bubble-bound Creighton Bluejays.
The Xavier offense has been listless against the quality defenses in the Big East, especially in recent weeks. In the month of February, Xavier has managed only 13 assists per game and is shooting 26% outside the arc. Xavier’s five best offensive performances by points per possession, and eight of its top 11, came before Jan. 10.
From game to game, the Musketeers are unaware of which players will provide the scoring production needed to win.
This Providence team must have done something to earn some positive karma.
The Friars have 10 wins against KenPom’s top 100 teams. All 10 of those wins came by 10 points or fewer. Providence, after a one-point overtime win at Butler, is 4-0 in games decided by one possession. Expand that criteria a touch, and the Friars extend to 7-0 in games decided by four points or fewer.
KenPom has a metric named “luck,” which measures which teams have benefitted the most from winning close games. Not only is Providence the “luckiest” team in college basketball this season, but the Friars are also the luckiest team in the sport since 2008, when Wagner won three games in overtime and two more in double overtime.
Providence has outscored its opponents by 141 points this season, good for 5.6 per game. Compare that to Xavier, which has outscored its opponents by 6.5 points per game. As a reminder, Providence is 22-3 and dreams of a Big East title, while Xavier is 17-9 and sliding toward the bubble.
Are these Friars just a statistical anomaly screaming to be faded by the entire betting public? No, not entirely. First off, sportsbooks, as you’d expect, aren’t exactly buying into the Friars yet. The line on this game proves as much.
Beyond that, there is something to be said for Providence’s play in crunch time. The Friars have pulled a few rabbits out of their hats, without question, yet this veteran team has gotten stops down the stretch in a close game.
Al Durham and Nate Watson can get buckets against even the toughest defenses, and Jared Bynum has played like he deserves a spot on the first-team All-Big East roster.
Providence should be viewed with some skepticism, but I’m not throwing the baby out with the bath water. The Friars can win games in March.
Xavier vs. Providence Betting Pick
Due in large part to Providence skating by its lesser opponents, like needing overtimes to beat both DePaul and Butler recently, this line is minuscule.
Against one of the more dangerous teams in the Big East or on a game played on a neutral court, I’d have an eye out to fade the Friars.
Against this deteriorating Xavier squad and at home at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence? I like the Friars to take care of business. Since 2019, Providence has covered 57% of games at home.
The Friars’ statistical profile would make more sense with a few more losses on the docket, yet it would also start to make more sense with a double-digit win or two to balance things out.
With Xavier backsliding toward the bubble, Providence is in position to boost its resume.
Pick: Providence -1.5 (Play to -4.5)
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