Friday College Basketball Odds, Pick & Predictions: Xavier Musketeers vs. Butler Bulldogs Betting Preview
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Nate Johnson (Xavier)
- Coming off a loss to Villanova, No. 22 Xavier travels to Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday to take on Butler.
- The Bulldogs are searching for their second Big East win and second at home.
- Shane McNichol breaks down the matchup below and offers up his best bet.
Xavier vs. Butler Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
We’re settling into a key part of the college basketball schedule, both for teams and for bettors.
We have enough information about most squads to know what we’re going to see. Sportsbooks and analytical models have a fairly good sense of who can compete for conference championships and who is starting to think about a rebuilding effort.
In the Big East on Friday night, we’ll see one team from each side of that coin. Xavier has had a very strong non-conference slate, and only has one loss in the conference — a road loss to Big East favorite Villanova. Butler, meanwhile, is stuck in the mud and struggling to figure things out.
At face value, this should be a convincing Xavier win. Road games in conference play — at a venue like Hinkle Fieldhouse — don’t always cooperate with what should happen on paper, though.
So, where does that leave bettors looking to place a wager on this conference clash?
Travis Steele has constructed a roster capable of competing for the Big East title by maximizing every method to add talent to his program.
Of Xavier’s six-highest usage players this season, two are seniors, two are juniors and two are sophomores. That provides a perfect mix of experience and new blood, with two of those six players coming to Xavier via the transfer portal.
The Musketeers’ roster is built for success on both ends of the floor.
Xavier’s offense is most commonly initiated by slashers Paul Scruggs and Colby Jones, but is also built to compete in the paint with Iowa transfer Jack Nunge and junior stretch four Zach Freemantle.
Xavier’s mix of size and athleticism makes the Musketeers tough to cover, and teams have settled for fouling instead. Xavier has taken the 25th-most free throws per game in the country.
On the other end of the court, Xavier avoids that same mistake. The Musketeers are allowing the seventh-lowest free throw rate in the country. Nunge is a huge piece of that puzzle. He is a legitimate 7-foot tall rim protector who alters any shot in the paint when he’s in the lineup.
In total, Xavier is not a team with a strength that jumps off the page, but the Musketeers also don’t have any flashing red flags. In the dog days of conference play — especially on the road — a lack of flaws is often more valuable than a specific strength.
It’s early, but this Butler roster appears unable to compete with its Big East peers (save for DePaul, which is still up to its old tricks at the bottom of the conference).
The Bulldogs are just 6-5 against Division I opponents and 1-5 versus the KenPom top 100.
Butler is fine defensively, but the Bulldogs’ offense is a mess. COVID and injuries have kept LaVall Jordan’s best lineups off of the court, yet even when operating at full strength — or close to it — there’s no path to buckets for this team.
Chuck Harris is, in theory, Butler’s best playmaker. In recent games, his minutes have been spotty and his production is even more erratic. Against Seton Hall, Harris played 15 minutes, took five shots, missed them all and didn’t record an assist.
Freshman Jayden Taylor is a nice player, but is far from ready to shoulder the weight of being the primary playmaker for a power conference team.
The veterans and super seniors throughout the rest of the Butler lineup are nice players who could fill roles excellently around a creator or two.
On this team, they are forced to do more than act as secondary pieces, though. That leads to some forced shots, turnovers and bogged down offensive scheming.
Xavier vs. Butler Betting Pick
If Xavier wants to be considered a Big East contender, or even a team with aspirations to reach the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend, this is not the kind of game that the Musketeers can afford to lose.
Statement wins come against the best teams in the conference, but can be punctuated by taking care of business against the bottom half of the league.
Xavier is bigger and deeper than Butler and has been better on both ends of the floor this season. Butler will struggle to score against the Xavier defense, but the Musketeers have too many options for Butler to keep off the scoreboard.
Take the X-Men and lay the points on the road.
Pick: Xavier -5.5 (Play to -6.5)
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