After battling through inconsistency last season, Xavier has taken a much-needed leap forward and now has an opportunity for the sole possession of first place in the Big East standings. Standing in their way are the feisty Butler Bulldogs who are in the midst of a roller coaster type of season. The Big East has been an absolute gauntlet, not allowing for any unit to take a night off. Can Xavier pad their lead in the standings with a win on the road?
Xavier Vs. Butler Odds
Oddsmakers think so as they opened Xavier as a -5.5 favorite. Bettors are in agreement with them, taking Xavier up to -6 right away in some shops. Coincidentally both units are coming off of a win against St Johns, both looking to continue to build momentum for a late season push. Xavier has been the far more consistent unit throughout the season, basing their success off of one of the most lethal scoring outputs in the nation. This may be too much for Butler to withstand, putting them in danger of a potential blowout.
Speaking of scoring outputs, oddsmakers believe points are going to be scored at a blistering pace by opening the number at 147. Bettors have initially taken a stand with the under, taking the number down to 146.5 since the opener. This will be heavily predicated on Butler’s success to find consistency in scoring, an area that has eluded them this season. Those opportunities may come at a higher chance than they have been accustomed too as defense has been Xavier’s weakness.
Xavier Vs. Butler Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Xavier -5.5
Even with a faltering defense, the Xavier offensive output will be too much for Butler to overcome and a major reason why I am backing them at -6 or less. They are one of the most efficient offenses in the nation, ranking fifth in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per Kenpom. They base a brunt of their success on their ability to knock down open jump shots by spreading the court with lethal weapons all over, forcing Butler’s defense to scramble to try and cover up those looks.
Speaking of knocking down jump shots, Xavier completes at an incredible rate by shooting 50.2% from the field and 40.4% from the perimeter. While this rate of lights out shooting seems unfeasible, Xavier has shown no signs of slowing down just yet. Butler has to be locked in from the jump as Xaviers has four of their five starters shooting over 40% from three. The Musketeers want to get out fast and, in a hurry, punishing scrambling defenses by filling the holes and knocking down the jumper.
This pace of play will give Butler fits as they tend to lean on the other end of the spectrum, ranking 245th in Adjusted Tempo per Kenpom. For comparison, Xavier ranks 24th in Adjusted Tempo and will look to turn this into a track meet. Should Butler struggle to dictate the pace of play, they may not be able to mount a comeback as the quick Xavier scoring output may be too much for Butler to overcome.
Butler’s offensive struggles have been the bane of their existence this season, ranking 182nd in Offensive Efficiency. This level of play will not be sufficient enough to play Xavier’s style of play, making it vital they turn the game into their ideal identity. That means Butler will look to slow it down, playing tough and physical in the interior for high quality looks at the rim.
Xavier Vs. Butler Key Matchups
Can Xavier’s reeling defense slow down Butler enough for the cover?
Xavier’s interior defense vs Butler scoring output
As indicated earlier, any chance Butler has to get the upset comes from their ability to find scoring success. An area that has eluded them this season, resulting in a record of 12-13 while eighth in the Big East.
Xavier’s weak defense gives them an opportunity to find that success, but the pace of which they score may not be enough to overcome a potential outpouring of Musketeer perimeter scoring.
Should Xavier be able to slow them down, even if just for small stretches at a time, then they can disrupt their rhythm and allow their scoring output to comfortably pull away. Jack Nunge’s shot altering ability will be vital in creating empty trips against Butler, smothering those looks with his length.
Back Xavier at no higher than -6 in what will be a crucial win for sole possession of first place in the Big East.