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Mike Spector makes his pick for Xavier vs Villanova. Tonight, he has his eye on the first-half spread.
ANALYSIS

Xavier vs Villanova Prediction: Taking Advantage of a First Half Spread

Xavier vs Villanova

When: Tuesday, December 21 - 7:00 PM ET

Where to Watch: FS1

Spread: Villanova -5.5

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Xavier vs Villanova Prediction

The Xavier Musketeers and Villanova Wildcats are two teams heading in opposite directions. Xavier brings a seven-game winning streak into their second Big East matchup, while Villanova has lost back-to-back games by at least 20 points. So is home-court advantage the remedy the Wildcats need to stop the bleeding, or will Xavier roll to their eighth consecutive win?

Xavier enters this matchup at 11-1, and their offense is primarily the reason for their recent success. Since their lone loss to Iowa State on a neutral court, the Musketeers have scored at least 77 points in six of their last seven games. Xavier has four players averaging double figures, led by senior guard Nate Johnson’s 13.3 PPG. However, the biggest spark for the Musketeers offense has been Iowa transfer Jack Nunge, who has averaged 13.0 points and 7.8 rebounds and is shooting better than 54% from the field. 

Xavier is an experienced bunch with six of their top eight players in minutes played being either juniors or seniors. The Musketeers rank in the top 31 in the country (per KenPom) in terms of adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. They do an outstanding job of protecting the rim, as their 41.8% two-point percentage allowed ranks 11th. In addition, Xavier does a great job on the backboards, as their offensive rebounding percentage and percentage of offensive rebounds allowed each rank in the top 44.

Despite having three losses, Villanova had been given the benefit of the doubt as a top ten team, as AP voters respected the brutal non-conference schedule they played to that point. Villanova’s first three losses came against Baylor, Purdue, and UCLA, who currently rank in the top four. However, a second consecutive 20-point loss to Creighton moved Villanova 14 spots down the rankings to No. 23 in the AP poll.

Villanova’s 36-point output against Baylor was not only their fewest points scored in the Jay Wright era but it is also tied for the fewest points scored in men’s basketball in the shot clock era (since 1985-86). In addition, the Wildcats had more turnovers (13) than field goals made (12) and now have two consecutive games with 67 or fewer points scored. In their previous game, Syracuse’s vaunted zone defense held the Wildcats to 13-for-50 (26%) from three-point range.

Villanova’s back-to-back 20-point losses are the program’s first since 1998-99. The Wildcats have always been known to “live and die” by the 3-point shot, so it has not helped that they have made just 23 of their last 100 3-point attempts. In addition, they have not shared the basketball as much as head coach Jay Wright would like, as they have just nine assists total in their last two losses.

The Finneran Pavilion at Villanova has been a “house of horrors” for Xavier, who is 0-9 on the road against the Wildcats since joining the Big East. While the Musketeers are an experienced bunch and one that is capable of ending this three-game losing streak, we expect playing on campus to be the exact remedy Villanova needs to cure their struggles. The Wildcats have played just one home game since November 16th, as the majority of the last month has seen them play at the Palestra in Philadelphia or raucous road environments in Waco and Omaha.

Conversely, Xavier has played five of their last six games at home and has experienced just one true road game (won 77-71 at Oklahoma State). 

Look for Villanova to come out with intense focus in front of their home crowd and jump on Xavier early. However, given Villanova’s lack of depth and the fact that they have worn down late in many of their losses, the safest play is the first half spread, which takes the Wildcats’ depth issues out of the equation. Villanova has won the first half in 22 of its last 23 games at Finneran Pavilion, and we look for them to start strong again.

Xavier vs Villanova Pick 

  • PICK: Villanova -2.5 First Half Spread (-110)

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Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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