#1 Villanova (24-3, 13-1) at #5 Xavier (24-3, 12-3)
When: Wednesday, February 24th 2016
Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, OH
Time: 7:00 ET | TV: Fox Sports 1
The Villanova Wildcats will look to clinch their third-straight Big East regular season title when they visit the fifth-ranked Xavier Musketeers on Wednesday night. The top-ranked team in the country has only lost three times this season and enter the game on an eight-game winning streak. Villanova is coming off a 77-67 home win against Butler on Saturday led by Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. The pair combined for 42 of the Wildcats’ 77 points as the team continued their strong performance from the foul line. Villanova hit 19-of-21 from the charity stripe and are number one in the country shooting 78.1%. Hart recovered from a tough two-game stretch with 22 points and 12 rebounds against Butler – his eighth double-double of the season. Daniel Ochefu has six double-doubles but none since January 6th, although he is shooting 76.5% from the floor in his last five games. Ryan Arcidiacono, who had nine assists against the Bulldogs, has shot 33.3% or worse in seven of his last nine games, but has been a great ball handler. Arcidiacono has 17 assists to zero turnovers in the past two games. Villanova manhandled the Musketeers in the first matchup 95-64 on New Year’s Eve.
Xavier proved they weren’t looking ahead to this game by pulling away in the second half on Saturday en route to a 88-70 win at Georgetown. Edmond Sumner scored a career-high 22 points in Saturday’s victory over Georgetown as Xavier shot 77% in the second half to pull within a game and a half of Villanova in the Big East standings. Xavier was rock solid at the foul line on Saturday making 29-of-31, committed only seven turnovers and got points from 10 different players. Trevon Bluiett averages a team-high 15.3 points but has reached that mark only once in the last four games and is shooting 5-of-22 from 3-point range during that stretch. Myles Davis (10.5) is also in a bit of a shooting slump hitting only 10-of-35 shots over the last five games. Xavier allowed Villanova to shoot 63.2% and 13-of-25 from beyond the arc in the December 31st loss. The Musketeers were a dreadful 39.2% and committed 19 turnovers. Sumner only played two minutes in that game as he was taken to a hospital after colliding with some Villanova players early in the game. That might have been enough for Xavier players to lose focus on the game – rightfully so.
Xavier is going to give Villanova all they got, but this Wildcat team is a legitimate Final Four contender and they’re not scared to play on the road. It should be a great game, but I’ll take the better team in this one.
Pick: Villanova +1