XAVIER MUSKETEERS (8-4)
at CINCINNATI BEARCATS (14-0)
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Cincinnati -9, Total: 129
Of the many developing storylines of the 2010-11 college basketball season, the emergence of the Cincinnati Bearcats into the Top 25 has been a surprise that few, if any saw coming. The Big East coaches certainly didn’t foresee this as they chose the Bearcats to finish 12th in the 16-team league. While Mick Cronin’s team has surged to a 14-0 start, the men from the Queen City still have their share of skeptics. Why? Well if we were to play the Bracketology tournament résumé board game ($9.95 from Milton Bradley) on January 6, we would see that the Bearcats have an RPI that rates them at No. 66, which is not horrible, but definitely not Final Four material either. A closer look reveals that Cincy presently boasts the 327th toughest schedule. Now THAT’S cause for doubt. The Bearcats can go a long way towards showing fans nationally that its Top 25 ranking matches the early-season hype with a win over cross-town archrival and mid-major standout Xavier. Vegas odds.
On the surface, the Musketeers do not blow you away with the numbers. Head coach Chris Mack’s 8-4 team is only averaging 70.5 PPG, and are shooting a pedestrian 43.7% from the field. But three of the four defeats came versus teams that made last year’s NCAA Tournament (Old Dominion, Gonzaga, and Florida) with two of the losses coming by single digits. The Musketeers have also registered a victory over 2010 NCAA runner-up Butler. As Tu Holloway goes, so goes Xavier. The 6-foot junior guard leads the team in scoring (21.3 PPG), assists (5.6 APG), steals (1.7 SPG) and if that wasn’t enough, he is also hauling down 4.3 rebounds per contest. If Cincinnati is thinking of wearing him down, that effort will likely be futile. Holloway averages 39.1 minutes per game. Holloway leads a quartet of Musketeers who score in double figures, with leading rebounder Jamel McLean (10.1 PPG, 9.5 RPG) and 7-foot center Kenny Frease (11.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG) manning things in the paint. Sophomore guard Mark Lyons is second on the team with 12.6 PPG as he has attempted 10-to-13 field goals in every game this season. Betting lines.
When last season’s leading scorer, freshman Lance Stephenson, left for the NBA the Bearcats were left with an offensive hole to fill. Enter junior guard Dion Dixon, who is averaging 12.7 PPG, while shooting 35.4% from beyond the arc. Dixon has more than doubled his 4.9 PPG scoring output from a season ago, and his FG% (from 35.1% to 45.3%) has soared from last season. Junior forward Yancy Gates (11.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG) is second on the team in points and rebounds, and leads the squad in blocked shots. Freshman Sean Kilpatrick has been a very pleasant surprise, contributing 10.1 PPG while shooting a blistering 41.8% from three-point territory. Six-foot-11 senior Ibrahima Thomas from Senegal is leading the team in rebounds (7.0 RPG) and also chipping in 7.9 PPG.
Last year’s meeting at the Cintas Center was an all-time classic, as host Xavier defeated Cincinnati 83-79 in double overtime behind Holloway’s game-high 26 points. It was the first double-OT game in the history of the Xavier-Cincinnati rivalry, which began in 1928. The Bearcats have lost three straight and 10 of the past 14 in this series. Since 1997, Xavier is 4-1-1 ATS (3-3 SU) at Cincinnati. Thursday night Mick Cronin looks to put a stop to that losing streak, while extending his team’s season-opening win streak to 15, all the while showing some more doubters out there that this year’s Bearcats are very much for real.
These two FoxSheets trends think Cincinnati will win and cover on Thursday.
Play On – Home favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points (CINCINNATI) – team from a major Division I-A conference against a team from a second tier conference, off a home win by 10 points or more. (116-62 since 1997.) (65.2%, +47.8 units. Rating = 3*).
XAVIER is 1-7 ATS (-6.7 Units) after 3 consecutive non-conference games this season.The average score was XAVIER 68.4, OPPONENT 67.2 – (Rating = 1*).
This FoxSheets trend expects the game to finish Under the total. Sports scores.
Play Under – All teams where the total is between 120 and 129.5 points (CINCINNATI) – good shooting team (45-47.5%) against an good defensive team (40-42.5%), in a game involving two good ball handling team (<=14.5 TO’s). (211-142 since 1997.) (59.8%, +54.8 units. Rating = 2*).