Xavier vs. Marquette Odds, Picks & Prediction: Big East Tourney Final
Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Marquette Golden Eagles forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper.
Big East Tournament Championship
Xavier vs Marquette Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
Saturday’s Big East Tournament Championship will make history, regardless of which team wins.
This will be the first Big East Tournament title for either the Xavier Musketeers or the Marquette Golden Eagles, but the history goes a step further.
Since the conference re-tooled itself following an exodus of schools seeking more lucrative football opportunities, the Big East Tournament has only been won by schools that have been in the Big East since it was just 10 schools in 1980 (Providence, Seton Hall, and Georgetown each once, plus Villanova five times).
In fact, of the nine schools to jump in the Big East at some point this century, only Louisville, now in the ACC, can boast a Big East Tournament crown.
Marquette is playing in its 17th Big East Tournament and has never even made the final. It’ll do so Saturday, as the top seed, after beating UConn in a back-and-forth battle.
Xavier, meanwhile, seeks to be the first of the Midwestern schools that joined the Big East in 2013 (along with Butler and Creighton) to win the Big East Tournament. The Musketeers dispatched Creighton handily Friday night, breaking open a double-digit lead late in the first half.
While the fans in the crowd at Madison Square Garden may be in tune with the historical significance of a win by either side, the coaches and players on the floor will be more locked into a game that promises to be highly competitive.
These teams met twice during the regular season, splitting the games with each team winning at home. In Cincinnati, it was star guard Souley Boum scoring six points in the game’s final minute to hold on to a four-point Xavier victory. Back in Milwaukee, Olivier-Maxence Prosper snuck a tip-in over the rim to take the lead with under two seconds to play. If this game can live up to those two duels, the crowd at Madison Square Garden is in for a treat.
Both of these teams rank in the top-10 nationally in offensive efficiency. Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek has been extraordinary in the Garden this week, posting 18 points and six assists per game through the semifinals. He’ll be countered by Xavier’s Souley Boum, as steady a shooter and playmaker as there is in college basketball.
They may be the headliners, but the game is more likely to be decided in the paint and on the glass. When Xavier beat Marquette at home, the Musketeers nabbed 17 offensive rebounds. When Marquette returned the favor, the Golden Eagles hauled in 15 offensive boards. Xavier is short-handed in the paint, still missing starting power forward Zach Freemantle.
He was out of the lineup in the second Marquette game, a large reason why the Golden Eagles controlled the paint. Head coach Sean Miller was still figuring out how to deal with life without Freemantle, and played just seven players in that game.
Xavier vs Marquette Betting Pick
I’m going to resist the urge to overreact to the semifinal round before settling on a side for the title game. Both teams impressed Friday night, but in very different ways. Xavier ran and hid from a very good Creighton team, looking very crisp on both ends of the floor. Marquette looked similarly well-balanced, surviving the basketball equivalent of a bare-knuckle brawl with UConn.
Instead, I’m going to trust what we’ve seen in the two prior meetings between these teams. Controlling the glass and winning the battle in the paint is crucial. If Marquette’s three-headed frontcourt of Oso Ighodaro, David Joplin and Prosper can avoid foul trouble, they’ll likely be too much for Xavier to handle.
Marquette’s depth better prepares the Golden Eagles for a third game in as many days. In what should be a close game, that could be the difference-maker.
Pick: Marquette ML -125
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