Saturday’s College Basketball Betting Previews: West Virginia-Tennessee, Marquette-Xavier

Saturday’s College Basketball Betting Previews: West Virginia-Tennessee, Marquette-Xavier article feature image

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Grant Williams, Naji Marshall

With 54 days until March Madness tips off, the excitement around the college basketball season is ramping up. Saturday’s slate of games offer even more reason to cheer with 16 ranked teams in action.

Among them are No. 12 Marquette at Xavier then No. 1 Tennessee’s matchup against West Virginia in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

What are the sides to wager on in these two matchups? Let’s break them down.

>> All odds as of Friday afternoon. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NCAAB odds and track your bets.

Betting Odds: Marquette Golden Eagles at Xavier Musketeers

  • Spread: Marquette -2.5
  • Over/Under: 144
  • Time: 2 p.m. ET
  • TV: Fox Sports 1

The Golden Eagles (13-6-1 against the spread) have covered in 11 of their past 14 games — 13 of them coming as outright wins.

On the flip side, the Musketeers (7-12-1) haven’t notched a cover in consecutive contests while failing to do so in four of their past six affairs.

Steve Wojciechowski’s crew smacked Xavier by 17 points in the teams’ last meeting on Jan. 6, but it hasn’t played as well recently despite its hot streak. The Golden Eagles came back from a nine-point first-half deficit on Sunday before fending off DePaul, which hung around by collecting 13 offensive rebounds.

Xavier poses a similar issue with a size advantage on Marquette, along with generating the 41st-highest 2-point field goal percentage (55.3%) in the country. Wojciechowski’s frontcourt owns the 17th-lowest opponents’ field goal percentage overall, but its conference foes have scored 47.8% of their points inside the arc — the fifth-highest rate in the Big East.

Expect the Musketeers to effectively pound the ball inside through Tyrique Jones (10.8 points per game) and Zach Hankins (10.6 PPG), as well as via their leading-scorer Naji Marshall (13.1 PPG) off the dribble drive.

They relied too much on their inconsistent perimeter offense in their initial matchup, which buried them early on.

Travis Steele’s crew has also accrued the 61st-highest offensive rebounding rate in Division I. Similar to Marquette’s matchup with DePaul, it should control the glass while slowing down Marquette’s 91st-highest Adjusted Tempo (70.1 possessions per 40 minutes) in the process

Golden Eagles point guard Markus Howard (24.3 PPG) is less effective in half-court sets, as he totaled eight of their 19 turnovers in their latest victory. Xavier will likely throw more ball pressure his way — a look that wasn’t utilized earlier this month.

THE PICK: Xavier +2.5

Betting Odds: West Virginia Mountaineers at Tennessee Volunteers

  • Spread: Tennessee -14.5
  • Over/Under: 154
  • Time: 4 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

Following five straight covers, the Volunteers (10-7-1) haven’t recorded one in back-to-back games, including a near straight-up loss at Vanderbilt on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers (8-11 ATS) came back down to Earth after upsetting No. 9 Kansas on Saturday, getting dealt a 12-point smacking by Baylor.

Within Tennessee’s 31st-rated Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (94.1 opponents’ points per 100 possessions), it’s yielding the 29th-lowest effective field goal percentage (46.4%). Given West Virginia’s 48.4% clip in that department — the 95th-lowest in college basketball — the Vols will overwhelm Bob Huggins’ squad at that end of the court.

Moreover, 52.6% of the Mountaineers’ scoring has come from inside the perimeter in Big 12 play. The Vols have yielded just 44.5% of their SEC opponents’ offense to come from that vicinity, which sits 12th among the 14-team conference.

Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kyle Alexander

Grant Williams, a Naismith Player of the Year candidate, and Kyle Alexander should overwhelm West Virginia’s erratic frontcourt.

It won’t help that Mountaineers forward Sagaba Konate (13.6 PPG) will miss his 10th straight game with a right knee injury.

At the other end, Tennessee’s second-ranked AdjO (121.4 points per 100 possessions) is guided by its inside game, leading to the 53rd-highest free-throw rate (FTA/FGA) in the nation. Williams (20.3 PPG) has manufactured the 15th-highest percentage in that area, and him and the Vols should continue to get the line often against a West Virginia team that’s let up the 32nd-highest free-throw rate.

According to our Bet Labs data, Tennessee is 3-4 (42.9%) ATS as a double-digit favorite this season. Expect a bounce-back showing from Rick Barnes’ unit in Knoxville.

THE PICK: Tennessee -14.5