Xavier vs Villanova
Xavier vs Villanova: the Xavier Musketeers travel to take on the defending champion Villanova Wildcats. Both of these teams were one seeds in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but both have struggled a bit this season.
Xavier hasn’t been having an ideal 2018-19 season by their lofty standards, but they’re still more than capable of playing really good basketball. They made the NCAA Tournament as a one seed last year but disappointingly lost in the second round, and then lost a lot of key pieces from last year’s team.
They lost three of their first five games, and enter this game at just 11-7. While the seven losses are extremely rare to see this early from a Xavier team, they have played a very difficult schedule. They don’t have any losses to bad teams or anything, and most of their losses have been by narrow margins. They’ve also played well recently, winning their two most recent games against good Georgetown and Butler teams.
The key here will be their outside shooting. They haven’t shot the ball well from three this year, but they’ve been able to win games despite shooting terribly from three. They shot a combined 10/41 from deep in the wins over Butler and Georgetown,
So if they can improve on that just a little bit they should be able to hang tough here at the very least. This is a crucial game for the Musketeers as they already have two conference losses, and we should see an all-out effort here.
Leading scorer Paul Scruggs is shooting over 45% from three this year, and the team has just finally started to give him the usage he deserves in the past handful of games. Their arrow seems to be pointing upward now that they’re giving him the ball more.
After a very rough start to the season, Villanova has rebounded nicely. They aren’t going to win a second consecutive national championship, but they’ve climbed back into the Top 25 rankings and have been racking up wins. That being said, I have major concerns about their ability to win big here.
They’ve won five straight games, but lost two straight before that, including one to Penn. And while the five-game winning streak is nice, it hasn’t been very convincing.
During that time they beat DePaul by five points, St. John’s by five points, and Providence by six points. The Wildcats lost a bunch of guys like Jalen Brunson, Omari Spellman, Donte DiVincenzo, and Mikal Bridges to the NBA, and have struggled to replace them.
Those guys just so happened to be the four leading scorers from last year’s team, and the offensive drop-off for Jay Wright’s team has been significant. They’re shooting a full 5% lower from three, and can’t just shoot their opponents out of a gym anymore.
They’ve had to change their identity, and while they’ve been able to win games, they haven’t been blowing opponents out at all, and only one of their last nine wins has been by more than 12 points. As such, I’d have major qualms about laying double digits with them here, especially against a good team like Xavier.