UConn Huskies vs. Xavier Musketeers
Line: UConn -7.5
Where: Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut
When: Wednesday, 1/25 at 6:30 p.m. ET
No. 13 Xavier will be looking to remain atop the Big East standings when they travel to No. 19 UConn on Wednesday night.
The Musketeers bounced back from their first conference loss of the season, which came in a 73-72 final at DePaul, with a 95-82 win against Georgetown on Saturday. They are sitting one game ahead of Marquette and Providence in the loss column at the top of the standings, and they are priced as the +100 ‘chalk’ to win the regular-season title at offshore sportsbook BetOnline.
UConn appeared as if it would be the best team in the conference by a wide margin when it raced out to a 14-0 record this season. The Huskies have lost five of their seven games since then, falling to fifth place in the Big East standings (+3300). Their first loss of the season came in an 83-73 final as 3-point favorites at Xavier on New Year’s Eve.
Despite the rough stretch, KenPom still has the Huskies ranked sixth in the country, which is the highest ranking of any Big East team. The betting market has not shied away from them either, opening UConn as a 7.5-point favorite in this matchup on Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday night’s total opened at 156, which is seven points higher than the total when these teams met at the end of December.
UConn’s 14-0 start to the season matched the third-best start in team history, but it is now sitting at 5-5 in league play. The Huskies led Seton Hall by 17 points last Wednesday before faltering down the stretch in a 67-66 final. That loss marked the third consecutive loss for UConn, but it responded with an 86-56 win over Butler on Sunday, easily covering the 15.5-point spread.
They shot 48.4% from the floor, marking their second-best showing in a conference game. Their defense was excellent as well, holding Butler to a 32.7% clip from the field and outscoring the Bulldogs 42-18 in the paint.
“We know we don’t suck,” UConn head coach Danny Hurley said. “We know we’re really good. And we know that these next 10 games, we’ve got a bunch of people coming to Gampel (Pavilion) and that we’ve got a chance at getting back to some wins.”
UConn has excellent metrics on both ends of the court, ranked ninth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 12 on the defensive end. The Huskies are shooting 53.8% from 2-point range and 35.3% on 3-pointers. They also have one of the highest offensive rebounding rates in the country (No. 17), which can be attributed to their tall lineup.
Junior forward Adama Sanogo leads UConn with 17.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, while sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins is adding 15.5 points. They are facing a Xavier defense that has struggled, sitting at No. 97 in adjusted efficiency.
The poor defense has not caused too many issues for the Musketeers though, as their offense ranks ninth in effective field goal percentage (56.0) and fifth in 3-point percentage (39.7). They shot 53.8% from the field and converted on 23 of 28 free-throw attempts in their upset win over UConn on Dec. 31.
Xavier dropped a trio of games against top-15 opponents in November, but it responded with an 11-game winning streak before losing to DePaul as an 8.5-point favorite last Wednesday. The Musketeers bounced back with a 95-82 win over struggling Georgetown on Saturday, but they failed to cover the 17-point spread.
Senior guard Souley Boum leads a lineup that features five double-digit scorers with 16.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. Senior forward Zach Freemantle is averaging 15.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the win over UConn earlier this season.
UConn has gone 16-1 in its last 17 home games, but it has only covered the spread twice in its last nine games overall. The Huskies have gone ‘over’ the total in 12 of their last 18 games, while Xavier has gone ‘over’ in 15 of its last 20 games.
The pick: Under 156 (BetOnline)
This pick bucks all of the trends that have shown these teams flying ‘over’ the total in recent weeks, but I think there is some definitive value in this spot. The total seven points higher than it was when these teams met at the end of December, and I expect a slightly slower pace on Wednesday as well. UConn ranks No. 170 nationally in average possession length, which is a much slower tempo than Xavier (No. 30). It is easier to control the pace at home, so I expect the Huskies to take advantage of that this time around. Both coaches also have first-hand experience with the opponent’s scheme this season, which should lead to a better defensive game plan, especially from UConn.