This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
The Big East takes the main event on Friday's college hoops slate, with the Mountain West featured as well. Steve Peralta breaks down a pair of matchups and shares his best bets of the evening.
Xavier at Seton Hall
Xavier enters Friday having lost three of its last four games, but don't let the losses fool you -- Xavier is still putting up a fight in every game. The Musketeers lost all three games by four points combined, just a few baskets away from having a couple more wins. In any event, Xavier is still powered by its high-flying offense, which consistently finds open looks and knocks down shots. Among all D1 teams, the Musketeers rank 11th in offensive adjusted efficiency (per KenPom), tenth in effective field goal percentage, fourth in three-point field goal percentage, and second in assist rate, yielding an explosive offensive attack. Additionally, Xavier is also great at rebounding, ranking top-four among Big East teams in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage since the conference season tipped off. This will likely come into play in Friday's matchup, as Xavier ranks higher than its opponent in both categories.
Seton Hall similarly enters Friday also having lost three of four games, although the Pirates' losses weren't nearly as close. Seton Hall lost the games by 26 combined points, with the closest margin being a four-point loss at Villanova. And unlike Xavier, Seton Hall has leaned on its defense to win games because the offense has struggled with consistency. During conference play, the Pirates have the fourth-worst offensive efficiency in the Big East while also recording the worst offensive turnover rate, a rough combination that makes it easy to see why Seton Hall has had trouble scoring at various times.
One other general game note, Xavier tends to cause high-scoring games whenever it's involved. Its potent offense obviously helps, but the other reason stems from its extremely fast pace, ranking 26th in adjusted tempo among all D1 teams. Through 17 conference matchups this season, Xavier's games are averaging 157 combined points per game, a number which also holds steady when playing on the road.
Xavier won by three points in the first matchup between these two teams, 73-70, although it's worth pointing out that the Musketeers didn't exactly play well, at least by their standards. In that game, Xavier made 25 percent of its shots from outside the arc (5-of-20), well below its season average of 39 percent. In Friday's rematch, it's always possible Seton Hall's defense might step up and hold down Xavier, but I'm betting the better team will ultimately prevail, even on the road. Xavier has already won at Connecticut this season, so it's more than capable of winning a tough road conference game. I'm taking the Musketeers in a high-scoring game.
College Basketball Best Bet: Xavier -1.5 & Over 140.5
Nevada at Fresno State
Nevada is heating up as it closes out the season, having won five of its last six games. During this recent stretch, the Wolfpack have defeated San Diego State and won at New Mexico, its two most impressive performances of the season. Nevada is clearly rounding into form as we approach March. The Wolfpack play a balanced brand of basketball, recording the third-best efficiency ratings in the Mountain West on both offense and defense since the conference season started. This is in stark contrast to Friday's opponent, which is severely lacking on one side of the court.
Fresno State, meanwhile, has lost nine of its last 13 games and has suffered through major offensive issues throughout the season. During conference play, Fresno State ranks last in the Mountain West in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, free-throw attempt rate, and three-point field goal percentage. Considering the massive scoring issues, it's no surprise that Fresno State's record sits at 10-17. Friday's matchup won't do it any favors, either. One of Fresno State's strengths is its ability to force turnovers, and that skill is rendered moot against Nevada, which has the best offensive turnover rate in the Mountain West.
As everyone knows, covering on the road against a conference foe is never easy, but Nevada is playing well and has a favorable matchup lined up. Additionally, I'm not usually into motivational angles, but the stakes are now much different for each team at this point in the calendar. One team has legitimate aspirations to hear its name called on Selection Sunday, while the other team is only a couple of weeks away from packing up its locker. One can never count out a home team, but ultimately I'm betting the better team will emerge victorious. I'm backing Nevada in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Nevada -2.5
Friday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Friday:
- Xavier -1.5
- Xavier at Seton Hall - Over 140.5
- Nevada -2.5
For up-to-date information on the latest college basketball odds and props from multiple sportsbooks, check out the College Basketball odds page on RotoWire.
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