Providence vs. Xavier NCAA Basketball Picks and Predictions

Al Durham #1 of the Providence Friars drives to the basket in the first half against the Seton Hall Pirates. Mitchell Layton/Getty Images/AFP

On Wednesday night in the Big East, two Top 25 clubs will collide as Providence travels to the Queen City of Cincinnati to take on Xavier. The Musketeers need a victory, can they secure one?

Providence sits in the kings’ chair at the top of the Big East standings at 6-1 (4-3 ATS), ahead of Villanova. The Friars will have their work cut out for them since, this season in away games, they are only averaging 60.5 points a game on 37.8 percent shooting, yet, are 4-2 SU and ATS.

Xavier has scuffled in conference play at 4-3 and only beat the betting odds once in seven tries. The Musketeers have unfortunately already faced Villanova twice, contributing to their mediocre record and will look to pile up victories elsewhere with the Wildcats out of the way.

Providence Friars vs. Xavier Musketeers

Wednesday, January 26, 2022 – 06:30 PM EST at Cintas Center

Bet365 and other top sportsbooks have Xavier as an 8.5-point home favorite with a total of 139. Let’s break down both clubs and seek an answer for college basketball picks.

Providence in Rarified Air

The last time Providence was 16-2 (11-7 ATS), Magic Johnson’s was lacing them for Michigan State back in the 1977-78 season. With victories this week over tough opponents like Xavier and Marquette, this Friars’ crew could tie the school’s all-time best start at 18-2, which was the year prior in 1976-77.

No need to get ahead of ourselves, because No. 17 Providence will not only have to play great defense as they have all year, the offense will need to perk up outside of Rhode Island.

Coach Ed Cooley’s crew holds opposing teams to 40.2% shooting and 64.1 PPG. That won’t be a fun task on the road against a Xavier crew that tallies 74.5 PPG overall and 78 PPG at the Cintas Center.

Cooley will need big games from his top scorers, center Nate Watson and guard Al Durham. The best news Cooley could receive is if guard A.J. Reeves returns as he is the club’s third-leading scorer, having missed four games with a pinkie injury. Recent reports had him listed as – questionable.

Providence needs to play at a slower pace and control the tempo.

Xavier Has to Be Tougher Mentally and Physically

There is absolutely nothing wrong with No. 21 Xavier’s 14-4 record (10-8 ATS), but followers of the basketball program have real concerns.

The Musketeers are just 3-3 in their last half dozen outings and X-Men bettors are not pleased to be riding a 1-6 ATS downturn.

What is frustrating these fans is Xavier’s recent inability to put the ball in the basketball from two feet in. Middle-of-the-road teams make 61% to 63% percent according to Bart Torvik’s ( aggregated shot chart numbers. In Xavier’s past four games, they are under 53%, which frankly is pathetic.

This leads to two talking points. One, Musketeers players are not going strong to the basket with the ball in their hands and are using finesse rather than brute force to power the orange through the basket.

Secondly, the opposing teams know this and are unafraid to go body up on defense and aggressively go after blocks, which causes errant shot attempts.

Coach Travis Steele has no doubt talked about this repeatedly, but until something is done to alter the mentality, bunny shots will continue to hop off the rim.

What is the Best Side to Be On?

As far as the point spread, in looking at various power rating services or those using algorithms, the point spread looks about right. Providence over the last several seasons has started well and faded in February.

Xavier is 10-1 and 7-4 ATS at home and has knocked off the Friars seven of eight times in Cincinnati. Maybe that will happen again and Providence’s lack of offense will haunt them, but they are 7-0 ATS versus teams outscoring their opponents by 8+ points a game.

They’re also 8-2 ATS versus foes with a shooting percentage defense of 42% or lower this season. Cincy wins just by eight or less cashing our NCAAB pick for tonight with the Friars.

NCAAB Pick: Providence +8.5 (-110) at Bet365