No. 16 Xavier Musketeers at Seton Hall Pirates
Line: Xavier -1.5
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
When: Friday, 2/24 at 7:00 p.m. ET
No. 16 Xavier will try to get back on track when it travels to Seton Hall on Friday night in a standalone Big East battle.
The Musketeers have lost three of their last four games, falling two games back of Marquette in the conference standings. They were 4.5-point favorites in their 64-63 loss to Villanova on Tuesday and have now seen their last three losses come by a combined four points.
Seton Hall has lost three of its last four games as well, causing its at-large NCAA Tournament hopes to slip away. The Pirates came up short against Xavier in December in the first meeting between these teams, but they covered the spread as 8-point underdogs in the 73-70 final.
Offshore sportsbook BetOnline opened the spread for Friday’s rematch as a pick’em on Thursday afternoon. The total for this game opened at 140.5, which is 3.5 points lower than the total (144) from the first meeting.
By this morning, most shops had Xavier installed as a 1.5-point favorite with the total at 141.
Seton Hall has seen the ‘under’ cash in nine of its last 12 games, while Xavier has gone ‘under’ in four of its last five contests.
The Musketeers blew a 13-point lead in the second half of their loss to Villanova on Tuesday, turning the ball over 10 times following the intermission. They have likely fallen out of the Big East title race at this point, but they are still a No. 4 seed in the latest bracket projections from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
Senior forward Zach Freemantle, who averages 15.2 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds, continues to remain sidelined due to a foot injury that is expected to keep him out until the postseason. He has not played since Jan. 28 and his absence has certainly been one of the primary reasons for Xavier’s recent struggles.
The Musketeers are putting their No. 11 offense (KenPom) up against Seton Hall’s No. 13 defense on Friday night. Xavier ranks fifth nationally in 3-point percentage (39.4) and ninth in effective field goal percentage. Freemantle is out of the picture right now, but Xavier still has four double-digit scorers available.
Senior guard Souley Boum leads the way with 16.3 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. Senior forward Jack Nunge is adding 14.6 points and 8.0 rebounds—the Musketeers are No. 14 in KenPom’s experience ratings, while Seton Hall is No. 19.
The Pirates could have a potentially huge injury absence on Friday as well after forward Kadary Richmond went down with a back injury in the first half of Saturday’s loss to UConn. Richmond, who had a team-high 17 points in the first meeting between these teams, is ‘questionable’ for this contest.
“I thought once we got our rhythm back in the second half (vs. UConn), it kind of helped us, but I thought the first half, once Kadary went down, our rhythm, it just wasn’t there,” Seton Hall coach Shaheen Holloway said.
Dre Davis has missed six straight games due to a high ankle sprain, but he is expected to return on Friday. He is the team’s fourth-leading scorer (9.1), sitting behind Al-Amir Dawes (12.7), Tyrese Samuel (10.9) and Richmond (10.1).
Seton Hall has only covered the spread once in its last five home games, but it is 11-5 ATS and 4-2 SU in its recent games against Xavier. The Musketeers are 1-4 in their last five road games and are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 February games.
The pick: Seton Hall +1.5
This is a tough game to get a good read on due to all the injury issues surrounding both teams, but defaulting to Seton Hall at home seems like the best course of action. The Pirates already played Xavier close on the road earlier in the year, and the Musketeers are without their leading scorer and rebounder from that game. Xavier has lost four of its last five road games and has struggled to a 5-11 ATS mark in its last 16 games against Seton Hall. The Pirates are tough to handle when their crowd gets behind their elite, experienced defense. Xavier is coming off another heartbreaking loss and might be looking ahead to the postseason/Freemantle’s return at this point.