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Villanova

at

Xavier

College Basketball Pick

2/11/17

Villanova is closing in on yet another Big East regular season championship and a win in this game could all but seal the deal for this year. With a win, the Wildcats could put at least two games between them and everyone else in the conference. The first time these teams met it wasn't much of a contest with 'Nova winning 79-54. But it was even a worse situation last year when Nova won the first game by 31 points and then Xavier won the return meeting at home.

However, doing that same thing this year may be a little bit more difficult without Edmond Sumner, its second leading scorer and point guard. Since Sumner's injury, the Musketeers have gotten away with some wins, but nothing has come easy, beating Seton Hall and Creighton both by two points. Winning this game will take more than that, even at the Cintas Center.

In the first meeting, Xavier actually led 24-18 in the first half, but from there things went straight down hill. The Musketeers went on to shoot a miserable 17-of-58 from the field and 6-of-32 from deep. Sumner led the team in scoring and he had just 11 points. Things were much different for Villanova, as Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins both scored 20 and they had three other guys hit at least 10. Without Sumner leading the way, it's going to be extremely difficult for Xavier to win this one, even at home.

Quentin Goodin has been the main player to step up in Sumner's absence, but it's hard to compare the two. In the Creighton and Seton Hall wins, Goodin went just 3-of-19 from inside the arc. Sure, he had 12 assists, but that kind of shooting isn't going to be enough for the Musketeers to beat high-end competition. The one guy that can lead Xavier to a win would be Trevon Bluiett, who leads the team in scoring with 18.6 points per game. Nova completely locked him down in that first game as nine of Bluiett's 10 shots came from three-point range. But things won't be any easier in this game, whether it's Mikal Bridges or Kris Jenkins defending Bluiett. And if Bluiett can't catch fire, the Musketeers will need either JP Macura to step up or one of the role players like RaShid Gaston.

The other end of the court also leaves plenty to be desired for Xavier. The freshman Goodin may have to defend Jalen Brunson or Hart and neither of those matchups will end well. With those guys expected to have plenty of open looks in addition Jenkins and Bridges, this may not end the same way as last season's rematch ended.

Xavier has escaped past decent teams, but not great teams without Sumner and that Creighton win also came against a team without its starting point guard. Going against one of the best teams in the country, the Musketeers will have issues on both ends of the court as Sumner's absence will be noticed in this game. If Bluiett and Macura can have great games, then maybe there's a chance, but that's a hard thing to bet on against a team as consistent as Villanova.

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