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Villanova

vs.

Xavier

College Basketball Pick

2/24/16

This is probably the biggest game in the Big East since conference realignment a few years ago. Villanova and Xavier are both in the top 10 and in a completely different tier than anyone else in the conference.

And yet, the first time these teams played, it was an onslaught with 'Nova walking away with a 95-64 win in a game that was never really close. That also happened to be Xavier's first loss of the season. Xavier got out to a 5-4 lead early on, but less than 10 minutes later was down by 20 points and that was it. This one figures to be a much different game for obvious reasons.

The Wildcats may only have one loss in conference play, but they've had a number of close games on the road. The same can be said about the Musketeers, but at home, who only have one loss at home all season.

Villanova rode extremely hot shooting in that first game, and there's almost no chance they match that. They went a ridiculous 13-of-25 from 3, and were 63.2% from the field. Ryan Arcidiacono hit seven threes en route to 27 points, easily his best game of the season. The four starters outside of him were a ridiculous 19-of-24 from the floor.

On the other end, Xavier got almost nothing from its starters going 7-of-24 from the field. Another difference was that their second-leading scorer, Edmond Sumner, left a few minutes into the game on a stretcher. With Sumner back, that will easily change the outlook of this team from the last game.

These squads are similar in a lot of ways. They both have a multitude of guys that score to go along with great depth, but neither one has great size. That's not a huge deal playing in the Big East and that probably won't be a big deal in this game. The score in this game could easily flip-flop from last time if Xavier hits all of its shots and Villanova's second-best scorer leaves the game. But that probably won't happen and this game will be much closer the second time around.

The Musketeers still have to figure out a way to stop Arcidiacono, who also had eight assists in that first game. So even though he was on fire from deep, he also distributed the ball well, which is more easily repeatable. Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins are the other two 'Nova guys to focus on. Hart has been huge for the Wildcats this season and leads the team with 15 points per game to go with 7.6 boards. And this is coming from a 6-5 guard.

The return of Sumner changes a few things for Xavier as he gives them size on the perimeter, something that would help in defending the likes of Hart and Arcidiacono. And from there, the Musketeers will need its usual production from Trevon Bluiett and Myles Davis, but also off the bench from James Farr and J.P. Macura.

If you want to beat this Villanova team, you need more than one or two players having a good game to do it. The Wildcats have so many options on the offensive end that even if one or two guys are struggling, they'll find a way to beat you. Last game, everyone on Villanova was hitting shots. As long as that doesn't happen and Xavier plays tougher defense, this one should go down to the wire.

Xavier would like to return the favor after getting embarrassed the first time, and they have what it takes to do it. The Musketeers have won three straight games by double digits, all against tough competition, two on the road at Butler and Georgetown. They lost by 31 in the first game, but get the edge here.

Predicted Score - Villanova 75 Xavier 73

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