Thursday’s College Basketball Betting: Xavier-Creighton, Arkansas-Florida
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Xavier Musketeers forward Naji Marshall (13) celebrates with guard Kyle Castlin (2).
Conference Tournament time is in full swing and tickets are getting punched for the NCAA Tournament.
With St. Mary’s upsetting Gonzaga, the bubble has already started to shrink, making teams with uncertainty desperate for wins. Today we examine games between teams fighting for an NCAA invite.
Let’s examine Xavier-Creighton (2:30 p.m. ET) in the Big East Tournament and Arkansas-Florida (1 p.m. ET) in the SEC Tournament.
Which teams will earn that much-needed win?
Betting Odds: Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Florida Gators
- Spread: Florida -3
- Over/Under: 134.5
- Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
- TV: SECN
Arkansas (17-14) enters the SEC Tournament on a three-game winning streak. The Razorbacks are 7-5 against the spread on the road and have covered their past four consecutive games.
Florida (17-14) has been wildly inconsistent, with two separate three-game losing streaks in their past 11 games. The Gators are 11-13 ATS including 4-9 in their last 13 games against SEC opponents.
Arkansas’ pressure defense is stifling opponents at the end of the season. It ranks ninth in country with an average of 16.7 turnovers forced per game. The Razorbacks are also disruptive inside, ranking first in the SEC in block percentage. Sophomore Daniel Gafford (17.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks) is one of the best all-around post players in the country.
Arkansas boasts two of the best 3-point shooters in the country in guards Mason Jones (13.8 ppg, 36.1% from 3) and Isaiah Joe (14.1 ppg, 42.9% from 3). Over the past four games Joe is shooting 54.2% (13-of-24) and Jones 59% (13-of-22) from beyond the arc.
Florida has reverted from a five-game SEC winning streak back to its losing ways. The Gators’ defensive metrics are always solid, but they are susceptible to interior post play.
They rank 12th in the SEC in defensive block percentage and 13th in limiting offensive rebounding to defend the post in SEC play. Gafford was limited to just nine points in their first matchup, but is playing much better and is as healthy as he’s been this year.
The Gators offense has been brutal, especially from behind the arc. In their past three games (all losses), Florida has shot just 26% (17-of-64) from downtown. They rank 22nd in 2-point percentage and 232nd in effective field goal percentage.
This is a critical game for Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament resume. The Razorbacks have just one Quadrant I win this season and have a perfect opportunity against a struggling and underachieving Florida team.
Gafford is a huge matchup problem and the hot shooting of Joe and Jones will complement their relentless defensive pressure. Another 3-point gift for a very live conference tournament underdog.
THE PICK: Arkansas +3
Betting Odds: Xavier Musketeers vs. Creighton Bluejays
- Spread: Creighton -3
- Over/Under: 140.5
- Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
- TV: FX1
Xavier (17-14) is peaking at the right time having won six of their last seven games. The Musketeers are 9-9 in the Big East conference placing them squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers are 6-1 in their last seven games and have covered the spread in each of those wins.
Creighton (18-13) on the bubble with the same 9-9 record in conference. The Bluejays are enjoying a five-game winning streak. However, they are only 15-14 ATS including just 6-6 away from Omaha.
Xavier’s offense is clicking, having totaled 70 or more points in four of their last six games. The Musketeers rank third in conference play in 2-point percentage at 52.6%. Their best weapon is the offensive boards, where the Musketeers have been second best among Big East opponents. In their last two wins, they have out-rebounded their opponents 24-13 on the offensive glass.
The key to this game is the health of forward Naji Marshall. The 6-foot-7 sophomore scored 59 points and shot 42% (10-of-24) from deep in wins over Seton Hall and St. John’s. He missed Xavier’s last game with an ankle injury but practiced in full yesterday.
Creighton brings a very young team to the Big East Tournament. The Bluejays rank 284th in experience. Four of their five top scorers are in their sophomore or freshman year.
The Bluejays defense in conference games has been non-existent. They rank ninth in effective field goal percentage and 3-point percentage allowed, as well as offensive blocks per game. They allow teams to get comfortable on offense. Xavier is 4-0 in their last four games scoring 70 points or more.
The Bluejays score 40.4% of their points from beyond the arc, which is 14th most in the country. Xavier has greatly improved their 3P defense, holding their opponents to 31.2% (51-of-163) over their past six games. That includes the Musketeers 64-61 OT win on Feb. 13.
These teams are evenly matched by record, but Xavier holds a big edge in defense and experience. This game should be a pick, making the three-point spread a nice gift. Enjoy watching the Musketeers advance behind a huge game from Marshall.
THE PICK: Xavier +3