Wednesday’s college basketball schedule gets started with a big game in the Big East between the no. 14 Villanova Wildcats and the no. 17 Xavier Musketeers. Villanova took care of Xavier 71-58 last month thanks to a dominant second half. However, the Wildcats are just one-point road favorites in this game, with the over/under set at 140.5 points.
Jay Wright’s team was far from perfect during the non-conference season and also opened up Big East play with a 20-point loss to Creighton. But the Wildcats have responded with four straight wins, putting them in a tie with Providence at the top of the Big East standings. That stretch includes the win over Xavier, as well as wins over Seton Hall and Creighton.
As for Xavier, the Musketeers had a strong non-conference season, beating the likes of Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Cincinnati. However, Xavier endured a long layoff thanks to postponements after that loss to Villanova. The Musketeers have only played just one game since that loss, a 10-point win over Butler on Friday.
The Musketeers appear to have no marquee player right now, as they have four players who average double figures but nobody averaging more than 12.7 points per game. Point guard Paul Scruggs has seen his scoring decline from last season, although that’s in part because he has more help in the backcourt. Nate Johnson and Colby Jones are both among Xavier’s double-digit scorers, with Johnson being a serious threat from the perimeter.
Iowa transfer Jack Nunge has also made an immediate impact in the Xavier frontcourt. He’s second on the team in both points and rebounds, in addition to providing a strong defensive presence with 1.5 blocks per game. The Musketeers also hope to get more out of Zach Freemantle, who was expected to be a key player but has been a little sluggish after missing all of November.
Same Old Cats
Once again, Villanova is led by super senior Collin Gillespie, who has increased his scoring even more from last season despite registering fewer assists. His backcourt running mate Justin Moore is also having a strong season, upping his scoring to 15.7 points per game and being just as big of a threat from three-point range as Gillespie. Caleb Daniels has been a steady contributor as well, although the Cats are lacking backcourt depth beyond those three.
It’s a similar story in the Villanova frontcourt, where the Cats have three solid players but little else. Jermaine Samuels and Brandon Slater are both averaging over 10 points per game, shooting well enough from the perimeter for the Wildcats to spread the floor. Eric Dixon has also been a key contributor this year, providing some muscle with 6.1 rebounds per game despite playing fewer minutes than the other forwards.
In the first meeting between these teams, Villanova outscored Xavier by 21 points. Even with the Wildcats going on the road, it’s a little surprising to see such a small spread. Bet on Villanova to handle its business and cover at least one point on the road.
100% up to $3,000 Bonus
Bovada is our most recommended ONLINE CASINO and POKER ROOM for US players with excellent deposit options. Get your 100% signup bonus today.