Like the Big 12, the Big East has brought on some intrigue as the conference has shaped out to be a lot closer than people imagined. Initially thinking this was Creighton or UConn’s conference to lose, has now seen the likes of Marquette and Xavier pose as serious sleeper contenders. Xavier has a chance to prove that as they take on the Connecticut Huskies in what will be a high-powered offensive showdown. Can Xavier get the win and put their stamp on the conference?
Xavier Vs. UConn Odds
Oddsmakers don’t think so as they opened the Musketeers as a +8.5 underdog. Bettors were quick to pounce on that steep number, taking them down to as low as +7. Preview alert as I’m kicking myself for missing out on a great opening number but was still able to grab something still valuable in my opinion. UConn has been in the midst of a free fall, going through a brutal losing slump on the back of anemic play on both ends of the court. Xavier has the offense to punish them, let alone keep it within the number.
Speaking of offense, oddsmakers believe this is going to be a high scoring affair as they opened the number at 154.5. With the recent sluggish play of UConn, bettors were quick to hammer the under as they lowered the total to 151.5 as of writing. This is an immediate pass for me as Xavier’s offense has burned an under of mine far too many times for comfort while UConn’s anemic play can still provide production against the weak Xavier defense.
Xavier Vs. UConn Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Xavier +7.5
As I alluded to earlier in the odds breakdown, I will be backing Xavier as this opened at an outrageous number. Especially when I believed it would have opened at a tighter number as an overreaction to UConn’s recent struggles. They lost three in a row in high scoring affairs, dropping their defensive production. They did bounce back against Butler in their most recent outing, but the Bulldogs don’t provide much of a measuring stick.
Their recent defensive struggles will be put on blast as Xavier has exploded onto the scene as one of the most efficient offenses in the nation. They currently rank sixth in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency behind lethal perimeter shooting that is capable of stretching out any defense. The Musketeers currently shoot an impressive 39.7% from three, as well as shooting 50.1% from the floor as a whole.
Being on the road can be a cause for concern when it comes to a pure shooting team, especially when it is against a good defense. While the Huskies have regressed as of late, they still can pose as a threat with a current 12th ranked Adjusted Defensive Efficiency metric. The perimeter production will be the key metric to watch as the Huskies benefited early on from an unrealistic defensive shooting percentage, an area that was bound to regress back towards the mean.
Now that it has bounced back towards the mean, they have been caught in struggles as opposing offenses have found success against them. Should Xavier be able to stretch out their defense with lethal shooting, then they can continue the scoring output with high quality looks at the rim. It wasn’t too long-ago Seton Hall’s anemic offense found success against the Huskies, giving me pause that UConn can suddenly turn it around.
Xavier Vs. UConn Key Matchups
Can Xaviers defense find success against the efficient scoring Huskies?
UConn scoring production vs Xavier interior defense
While Xavier has been a lethal scoring machine on offense, their defense has been their Achilles heel throughout the season as they rank a lowly 97th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per Kenpom.
They struggle to contain the middle, allowing opposing units to find midrange success as well as low post production. They sell out to limit the perimeter, making the backside a glaring weakness.
This poses a threat to our spread ticket as UConn has thrived in cuts to the middle. Xavier can limit the damage by sagging off the perimeter, forcing more contested looks in the middle.
Take Xavier at a +6 or higher in what will be a dominant display of offense as they continue to find success from the perimeter.