Villanova vs. Xavier NCAA Basketball Picks and Predictions

Paul Scruggs #1 of the Xavier Musketeers looks to make a play. Brady Klain/Getty Images/AFP.

This Big East battle features No. 14 Villanova at No. 17 Xavier. Both have one loss in conference play, with Nova having played two more games to this point. Continue reading to learn who has an edge.

Since being blown out in back-to-back games at Baylor and Creighton, Villanova has refocused and is on a 4-0 SU and ATS move. The calling card of this coach Jay Wright squad is defense, with not as many quality shooters as in the past.

Xavier has gotten off to a blazing 12-2 start (10-4 ATS). Though the Musketeers’ defense is very good, the last two games, one before a virus break of 17 days and one after, they have shown defensive weakness. Can this be fixed immediately?

Villanova Wildcats vs. Xavier Musketeers

Wednesday, January 12, 2022 – 06:30 PM EST at Cintas Center

These rivals met back on Dec. 21 in Philadelphia, where Nova spanked the X-Men 71-58 as 5.5-point home favorites. Despite being played somewhat long ago, Xavier has only played once since, making it very fresh in their minds. The betting odds at FanDuel have Villanova as one-point away favorites with a total of 140.5.

What’s Wrong With Villanova?

That heading is a very popular one in the Philadelphia area and at various locales around the country with Villanova at 11-4 (9-6 ATS), which is a decidedly poorer record than we are used to before the middle of January.

The Wildcats brought back a veteran team and they almost always played a highly competitive early-season schedule. However, trips to UCLA and Baylor might have been too ambitious in retrospect. This is the worst shooting Wildcats club since 2013, connecting on only 43%. That has been a continual downward trend for Coach Wright’s club, unable to recruit a big man that can score in the paint. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is missed from last year as Nova’s top scorer and rebounder and he was only 6’8.

Because of the lack of near-the-basket shooting, 46% of the shot attempts are from behind the arc, which lowers any team’s shooting percentage.

No such issues with defense, which is holding foes to 41% and 61.6 points a contest.

Xavier Cannot Be Rusty Again

After that 17-day break, Xavier played like a team that had not played together in a while in spite of blasting Butler 87-72 as six-point road favorites.

Coach Travis Steele was unconcerned about the offense, which was highly productive, and shot a season-high 55%. Steele’s concern was the defense, which allowed Butler to make half their shot attempts after Villanova had converted 49.1% of attempts. 

Steele, his players, and Musketeers’ fans everywhere understand another defensive showing similar to that and they will be swept by the Wildcats in the regular season. Xavier holds opponents to 39.5% accuracy and they rank 24th nationally in effective field goal percentage shooting (2pt FGM + 1.5*3pt FGM) / FGA).

Xavier actually did a good job containing Nova from three-point land at 6-21, but they did a much poorer job inside that arc at 21-34 (61.7%). Part of that was having a -6 in turnover margin, which led to easy baskets for the ‘Cats.

To take this tilt, the defense has to play to normal standards.

What Is the Best Side to Be On?

Have to say, it is a little stunning to see Villanova favored by the best sportsbooks even if they have won and covered five of the last seven games played in Cincinnati.

The Musketeers enter this encounter 9-0 and 7-2 ATS at the Cintas Center, winning by 21.6 PPG. That’s not to say the X-Men have not had a gaudy number before when facing Nova at home.

Still, this Wildcats squad, though formidable, is not intimidating and we expect the team from the Queen City to be eager and the fans vociferous.

Though Villanova is 26-12 ATS as a road favorite of three points or less, look for the home club to be very aggressive and working hard. They are 6-0 ATS after two straight games giving up 9 or fewer offensive rebounds this season.

NCAAB Pick: Xavier +1 (-118) at FanDuel