The No. 11 Xavier Musketeers are the lowest seed still playing in the Tournament. They will play the No.2 Arizona Wildcats for the spot in the Elite Eight. The Musketeers already caused two upsets but will face the toughest challenge of the year. Can Arizona hold off another challenger?
Place: SAP Center at San Jose
Date/Time: Thursday March 23th, 2017. 10:09 PM ET
TV Coverage: TBS
#2 Arizona Wildcats vs. #11 Xavier Musketeers
LINE: Arizona -7.5 (-102)
Total: 144.5 points (-106 over, -105 under)
Strong second half shooting helps Arizona advance past Saint Mary’s
The No. 2-seeded Arizona Wildcats (32-4) beat No. 7 St. Mary’s 69-60 in the second round in expectantly close game. The Gaels used their physical approach and their defense to disrupt Arizona until the midpoint of the second half, when the Wildcats finally separated themselves and protected the lead in the final minutes. After falling behind by as much as 10 points early in the first half, Arizona found its composure and their shooting touch to prevail. They shot almost 60% on their field goals in the second half, led by Allonzo Trier’s 14 second half points and Lauri Markkanen’s 16 points and 11 rebounds.
There was also an important defensive adjustment – coach Miller realized that Gaels’ center Jock Lonsdale is having his way with Dusan Ristic down low, so he put Markkanen on him. The move proved to be a successful one as Landale was troubled by Markkanen’s movement for the rest of the game. On the offense, much of their baskets came as a result of individual moves (they only had 4 assists for the entire game). When Arizona’s players were able to pass their primary defender, they either scored or have gone to the free throw line, but collectively, it was an overall struggle.
The Musketeers humiliate the Seminoles in another upset
The Xavier Musketeers outplayed Florida State in every facet of the game. That was probably the most impressive performance of the NCAA Tournament so far as the Musketeers won 91-66. The 35 points win was the largest ever victory for a Xavier team in the postseason. Points in the paint, second-chance points, bench points were all areas Florida State should have had the edge, but Xavier came out with aggression and haven’t slowed down. The Musketeers couldn’t miss from beyond the arc, shooting a season-best 64.7%. The Seminoles were just 4-21 from deep, but this was not just a case of who shot better.
Trevon Bluiett was excellent for the second game in a row, scoring 29 points in various ways. He drew much of Florida State’s attention, freeing up his teammates – four of whom had also scored in double figures. On defense, Xavier troubled FSU with the zone, clogging the lanes and forcing the Seminoles to scramble during nearly every possession.
#2 Arizona Wildcats vs. #11 Xavier Musketeers Game Trends & Prediction
Although the game against the Gaels was a close one, the Wildcats were able to cover in the last minute. This is the sixth consecutive game that they either beat the spread or pushed, making their season ATS record of 19-14-3. The game was played at Saint Mary’s preferred slow pace, so it was an under. It broke a streak of four consecutive overs. For the season, Arizona is 17-18-1 against the over/under.
Xavier also covered in their last six games, the last four times as an underdog. In spite of Musketeers offensive explosion, the game barely went to over. The previous five games finished under the expected total line. For the season, Xavier is sporting a 17-18 ATS record and 16-19 O/U record.
Xavier postseason performances haven’t deterred the books who still see them as a weaker team in the field. Arizona opened as a -7.5 jolly, much on par what they would be in the first round. The public wager is slightly favoring the Musketeers on this line, as they’ve really passed the eye test in the last game. I also believe that the Musketeers have the ability to smother Arizona and frustrate them with the zone the way they did against the Seminoles. The Wildcats should have an advantage in size in the paint, but the Musketeers have successfully masked their weaknesses so far, giving me enough reasons to believe they can replicate it. On the other side, the Musketeers will not shoot this well. The Wildcats are a two way team and Xavier isn’t a great outside shooting team despite how they shot in the previous game. This gives an edge to Arizona, but I still see value in Xavier as the underdog. I’m picking Xavier to cover and will pass on the total line as it holds no value either way.
My Pick: Xavier +7.5
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