The Xavier Musketeers are one of those teams that thinks they can accomplish something once the NCAA Tournament starts. And what they do in the Big East tourney doesn’t really impact that. They will play against the DePaul Blue Demons on Thursday as considerable favorites. Does DePaul have a chance to make this game close? That’s something BetOnline customers will have to determine.
Xavier, coached by Sean Miller, who came over from a scandal-plagued tenure at Arizona, is currently sporting a record of 23-8, and they are a sizzling 15-5 in the Big East. Early in the season (Miller’s first in his second stint with the school), they gave life and death to Indiana, Duke, and Gonzaga. Then they tore off eleven wins in a row, beating Creighton, Marquette, West Virginia, and UConn. That’s impressive by anyone’s standards.
They have, in fact, swept Connecticut, so it’s easy to see why some Big East observers believe this team can get somewhere in the Big Dance.
The Musketeers have been playing without one of their top people, 6-9 forward Zach Freemantle, whose season has ended with foot surgery. With 6-8 Jerome Hunter starting in his place, they have gone 6-3.
Will DePaul be any kind of threat? The Blue Devils were a bottom-feeder in the Big East, with a 3-17 conference record and 10-22 overall. They had lost twelve games in a row before scoring a Wednesday upset (66-65) over Seton Hall. They had to overcome a nine-point deficit as they roared down the stretch and ended the game with ten triples. Javan Johnson had 19 points for them, while Nick Ongenda blocked four shots.
In the Big East tournament betting odds posted on this game at BetOnline, Xavier is the big favorite:
Xavier Musketeers -12.5
DePaul Blue Demons +12.5
Over 152.5 Points -110
Under 152.5 Points -110
The aforementioned Ongenda missed the first 25 games of the season with a wrist injury, but the 6-11 centers has made his presence felt, averaging 11.5 points and 7.3 rebounds. For scoring punch, they’ll be looking to Johnson and Umoja Gibson, an Oklahoma transfer who is averaging 15.8 points.
These two teams are among the top 20 most experienced in the country. They’ve got size with seven-footer Jack Nunge. The Musketeers are seventh in the country in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and have averaged 82.1 points per game.
That’s part of the story.
Xavier is an extremely dangerous team from beyond the three-point arc, ranking fourth in the country at 39.8%. At any time, they can have four players on the floor who can shoot consistently from downtown. That certainly spreads out the DePaul defense, and maybe this is where the Musketeers can apply some size.
DePaul also shoots well from long range; they are second in the Big East (to Xavier) in that category. But they are much more dependent on the triple than Xavier is, and the Blue Demons do not have much of an inside and/or mid-range game, as they have shot two-pointers with 45.7% accuracy, which ranks them 334th in the nation.
Neither of these teams is known for its defense. Both of them have been lacking when getting out to challenge at the perimeter. This will create an interesting scenario at the top basketball betting sites and see how DePaul fans to wager.
But a huge difference here comes on the boards. With its size advantage, Xavier is at least within the top 100 on both the offensive and defensive boardsOnon the other hand, DePaul is 263rd (offensive) and 351st (defensive) on the glass. But it must be noted that since Ongenda came into the lineup, the offensive rebounding numbers have drastically improved.
We liked the “fight” DePaul showed against Seton Hall, and if they can handle this quick turnaround, they might just be able to land enough longballs to come through the backdoor against a generous opponent. So we’ll grab the points.
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