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Xavier

vs.

Providence

College Basketball Pick

1/26/16

The Big East is slowly gaining some respect once again on a national level. Probably for the first time since the realignment, the conference has three legit teams in the Top 25. Those three teams -- Villanova, Xavier, Providence -- have a combined eight losses.

Providence upset Villanova on Sunday as a 12-point underdog, ending the Wildcats' 22-game conference winning streak. Now, the Friars get to take on the other top team in the Big East, Xavier. The problem for Providence is that they have actually played a little better on the road so far. They won at Butler and 'Nova, but lost surprisingly at home against Marquette and Seton Hall.

After a couple early games against ranked teams, Xavier hasn't played one since beating Butler at the beginning of the month. And the last time they played a ranked team on the road, they fell to Villanova by 31 points. The Musketeers would be standing alone in second place, but fell at home to Georgetown last week. At the moment, there are four teams with 5-2 conference records, these two included. So a win here would go a long way in separating from the pack.

Providence seemingly has a team built for close games as that's been the case more often than not in conference play. Four of their last five games have either been decided by three points or less or gone to overtime. And the one that wasn't, the Friars lost by nine to Seton Hall.

The Friars just have the type of team that plays in those types of games. Against better teams, the duo of Ben Bentil and Kris Dunn always seem to keep them around, no matter who it's against. Bentil and Dunn combine for 36.4 points and 14.1 rebounds per game. In addition, Dunn adds 6.7 assists and 2.9 steals per game. But while those two will always keep this team competitive, they don't have the other pieces to break open games and blowout decent teams.

Rodney Bullock can be a good player at times, but is largely inconsistent. Guard Kyron Cartwright is only averaging 4.6 points on the year, but he has played big minutes as of late hitting double figures in three straight games. It doesn't help that Providence isn't a great shooting team either, only at 30.7% from three as a team.

Xavier is a deep, physical team and that could be an issue for Providence. Bentil is no doubt a beast down low, but he's going to be bodied up a lot in this game by guys like James Farr (10.8 points, 9.1 rebounds per game) and Jalen Reynolds (6.5 rpg). Bentil and Bullock expose weaker teams in the paint, but the Musketeers are not one of those weaker teams.

Then on the perimeter, Xavier has three guys that can all shoot, led by Trevon Bluiett, who's averaging 15.4 points per game to go with 6.8 boards. The Friars don't have a great defense, which is another reason they're always in close games, and they'll have plenty of trouble dealing with Xavier on the outside and in the paint.

The Friars have had home issues recently and to get the win, will need to put in a similar performance to what they did at Villanova over the weekend.

Score Prediction - Xavier 79 Providence 73

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