Two teams that have a bit of a history against each other in the postseason meet in the first full round of NCAA Tournament betting action on Friday when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish face off with the Xavier Musketeers.
The Selection Committee obviously wasn’t going to punish Xavier for losing in the Atlantic 10 Tournament Final on Sunday even though its defeat did cost someone a bid into the dance. This was an odd year for the Musketeers, and it is a wonder how it made it here with all of the ups and downs. Tu Holloway, a man that is capable of 30+ point efforts on a regular basis was suspended for the outset of the season, yet the squad went on a great run that included wins against the Purdue Boilermakers and Vanderbilt Commodores, both of which are in the dance. A win over the Cincinnati Bearcats turned ugly though, and there were several players that were suspended at that point. Xavier went from a team ranked in the Top 10 in the land sporting a perfect 8-0 record to one that dropped five of its next six games. Things regulated themselves after the suspensions lapsed, and the X-Men got back to their winning ways, though it wasn’t really until they beat the Saint Louis Billikens on Saturday that they knew that they would be okay. Mark Lyons and Holloway are clearly the keys for this team.
The Irish have had a wild year as well. Right at the outset, Tim Abromaitis, the man that was expected to be not just their top scorer, but potentially the top scorer in the whole Big East, suffered an ACL injury and has not been on the court since that point. That really made Head Coach Mike Bray and his staff alter some game plans, and all of a sudden, this is a team that really had to win games with its defense. Notre Dame did take down the Syracuse Orange this year and was the only team to do so until the Big East Tournament when the aforementioned Bearcats got the job done. Now, it is clear that the team revolves around Jack Cooley, Jerian Grant, Eric Atkins, and Scott Martin. These four are the top scorers for the team, and they all have double digit scoring potential on any night. Still, we go back to that defense, which is allowing just 61.5 points per game. That unit is phenomenal, and even when all else seemed to fail and the offense ran into hard times against some of the best teams in the grueling Big East, it was that ‘D’ that really got the job done.
The Final Word: This is a rough battle for the X-Men. If Holloway and Lyons find some space to operate and can get off some good shots, they’ll have a chance. However, we know that the Irish are the better of the two teams. They are seeded far too low in this tournament, and Xavier probably should have been a lot closer to the bubble. Both will show on Friday night.
Xavier Musketeers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick: Notre Dame Fighting Irish -2.5
Aaron Ryan has been in the sportswriting biz since the late-90s, and he has worked side by side with some of the best and brightest in sports gambling. Always searching for the best trends in sports, Andrew uses his brilliant math mind to his advantage to beat the books.