Xavier vs Minnesota Picks – Minnesota Looking To Regroup Before Madness
The opening round match up between Xavier and Minnesota has all the makings of a classic, although the favorite in this one will be anxious to put the hype behind them on the road to the Final Four. The Golden Gophers will need to give a much more complete effort than the one they put forth in a blowout 90-61 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. Online betting enthusiasts watched their conference championship run end abruptly after upset wins over Michigan State and Purdue to reach the big game.
- What: NCAA Basketball Betting
- When: Friday March 19th- 12:25 PM ET
- Where: Bradley Center- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Key Stat: Xavier 18-7 ATS as a favorite this year
The Xavier-Minnesota Storyline
After finishing conference play with a .500 record, the Golden Gophers scored huge upset wins over number eleven ranked Michigan State and number five ranked Purdue to reach the Big Ten championship final. Despite providing little to prove that they belonged in the title game- a 29 point loss to Ohio State, Minnesota supporters feel that the team can still pull out some of that same magic that saw them earn an at large bid in the NCAA title tournament that included a blowout win of their own, a 28-point win over the Boilermakers.
Meanwhile, Xavier will play its first game since having its Atlantic 10 title chances smashed by a familiar nemesis. The Musketeers clinched the regular season title, and were a favourite to at least reach the finals before falling to Richmond 89-85 in overtime of the conference semi final game. The two teams had played all the way through double overtime two weeks before, although Xavier was able to pull out a 78-76 win in that one.
The Musketeers have been the higher scoring of the two teams in recent play, although they have faced weaker competition than the Golden Gophers over that span. Xavier has put up solid points for numbers all season, but will face a true test of their abilities taking on a team that is solid defensively and resides outside the Atlantic 10. Guard Jordan Crawford leads all scorers with an average of 19.7 points per game, and can also contribute in other areas as evidenced by his average of just under five rebounds and three assists. Center Jason Love can be a monster in the paint, and has averaged 11.9 points and a team-leading 8.6 rebounds a game, while Terrell Holloway leads Xavier in assists per game with a 3.9 mark.
Minnesota uses a more balanced approach to attacking the opposition. Although their highest scoring player guard Lawrence Westbrook averages just 12.5 points per game, five players average better than eight per game, seven above six per game. Guard Al Nolan does the best job of spreading the ball around as evidenced by his 4.6 assists per game, while Ralph Sampson III is relied on inside where he averages 8.4 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Betting Edge: Xavier
Sportsbook odds makers know that Minnesota is undoubtedly the stronger of the two teams on the defensive side of the ball, although they will have to do a lot better than the 90 points they allowed against Ohio State in the Big Ten final. Perhaps head coach Tubby Smith will play tape of the semi final upset of Purdue in which the Golden Gophers limited the second-seeded Boilermakers to just 42 points, a team ranked fifth overall. Smith demands maximum effort from his players on both sides of the ball, and is hoping that effort combined with an intelligent defensive game plan will be enough to keep Xavier from scoring at the rate they did while leading the Atlantic 10 this season.
The Musketeers did not face many high-scoring, offensively stocked opponents in conference play, making it difficult to get an accurate barometer on just how strong the team is on the defensive side of the ball. Xavier did allow totals of 89 and 73 its past two games, although the 89 points allowed came against a tough Richmond team in overtime. Each of the top three teams they played in their conference schedule put up at least 73 points, including 77 points from Temple in one of two conference game’s they lost
Betting Edge: Minnesota
Xavier is fully healthy heading in to its fifth straight appearance in the NCAA’s title tournament, its ninth in the last ten years. Minnesota will also be without notable injury, as it pushes in to its second consecutive March Madness tournament, its eighth ever participation
Betting Edge: Even
Betting Prediction: Xavier vs Minnesota Picks
Smith has led Minnesota to a NCAA leading streak of 17 consecutive seasons with at least 20 wins, and is 29-13 in March Madness tournament play. After falling to Texas in the opening round of last year’s tournament, sports betting fans know that Smith will have his troops ready to not suffer the same fate when they travel to Milwaukee for Friday’s first round contest. Despite early season struggles including a pair of losses to Michigan and an overtime loss at Indiana, and with the exception of their third loss of the season to Ohio State, the Golden Gophers have played some of their best basketball of the season heading in to tournament play. They have won seven of their last ten games including three against ranked opponents.
After clinching its fourth straight Atlantic 10 regular season title, the Musketeers make their annual NCAA title tournament visit with an opportunity to prove that they are more than just a decent team playing in a below average conference. Despite Xavier’s noted appearances in previous March Madness’, the team will be led by rookie head coach Chris Mack making his debut. If Jordan Crawford, Jason Love, and Terrell Holloway will have to be at their best, they could sneak out an upset win.