Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: March Madness - #3 Xavier vs. #2 Texas (3/24/2023) - Taking Vegas

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Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: March Madness – #3 Xavier vs. #2 Texas (3/24/2023)

By TakingVegas Staff Writer
March 23, 2023

#3 Xavier Musketeers vs #2 Texas Longhorns (3/24 @ 9:45 PM EST)

Spread: Texas -4
Moneyline: Xavier +162 / Texas -182
Total: 149

Overview and Betting Info

The #3 Xavier Musketeers (27-9) will take on the #2 Texas Longhorns (28-8) on Friday in the Midwest Region’s second Sweet 16 matchup. Xavier finished second in the Big East, while Texas was second in the Big 12 and won their conference tournament.

Xavier is 19-16-1 against the spread this season but have failed to cover four of their last six games. They’ve gone over the total 22 times but have been under in three of their last four games.

Texas is 18-18 versus the spread and have covered six of their last seven games. They’ve gone over the total 16 times but have been under in their last seven games.

Xavier Musketeers

Xavier struggled to beat a good #14 Kennesaw State team but bounced back in a big way to blow out #11 Pitt. They did so by making 47.6% of their shots and 33.3% from three. Their defense was good enough to limit Pitt to a 38.6% field goal percentage. While Pitt was an eleven-seed, they were a balanced team that crushed #6 Iowa State in the first round. Defense hasn’t been a strength for Xavier, but they have been better in the tournament, making them a real threat to win the region. One concern is their depth, as the Musketeers only use seven players since losing star forward Zach Freemantle (15.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 58.5 FG%). Xavier is now 10-6 against tournament teams this season.

Xavier’s offense has been among the best in the country, ranking eleventh in scoring (81.2 PPG), sixth in field goal percentage (49.3%), fifth in three-point percentage (38.9%), and first in assists (19.2 APG). Those are impressive stats, but the team has been hampered by their poor play on defense. They ranked eighth in the Big East in opponent scoring (73.8 PPG), seventh in field goal percentage (44.1%), tenth in three-point percentage (35.5%), fourth in rebounds (37.8 RPG), sixth in steals (6.5 SPG), and ninth in blocks (3.2 BPG). One area of concern has been turnovers, as they were seventh in the conference with 12.4 per game. They’ve been under that average in both games, but they’ll be tested against a Texas team that is nineteenth in the country in turnovers forced (15.9 TO/G).

The Musketeers are led by Souley Boum (16.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 40.8 3P%), Colby Jones (15.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 51.0 FG%, 38.3 3P%), and Jack Nunge (14.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 52.6 FG%). Boum has combined for 31 points through their first two games, but he only makes 31% of his shots from the field and is 2-12 from three. Still, Soum is an excellent source of rebounds and is a solid free-throw shooter that has made 13 of his 14 attempts in March Madness. Jones is a reliable scorer who broke out of a mini-slump by making 44.4% of his shots against Pitt. He finished with 10 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, and a block. He can score big points, averaging 23.7 points over the final three games of their career. Nunge is a seven-foot big man that is going to be a problem for Texas. He has combined for 28 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks in their two tournament games. The Longhorns don’t have anyone taller than 6’8”, meaning Nunge will play a significant role on Friday.

Texas Longhorns

The Longhorns find themselves in the Sweet 16 after beating #15 Colgate and #10 Penn State. The game against the Nittany Lions was impressive, as Penn State had been playing its best basketball of the season. While Penn State isn’t as efficient as Xavier, they were ninth in country in three-point percentage (38.7%). The Longhorns held them to 28.6% from three, which allowed them to lead almost the entire game. This is one of the most balanced teams in the country, ranking high in the Big 12 in both offensive and defensive categories. Their defense has been especially great lately, averaging 58 points allowed over their last five games. The Longhorns have been impressive against tournament teams, and are now 13-7 against them.

Texas was the best offense in the stacked Big 12 conference. They were first in scoring (77.8 PPG), first in field goal percentage (47.1%), sixth in three-point percentage (34.1%), fourth in assists (16.1 APG), and first in turnovers (11.6 TO/G). The Longhorns have also been solid on defense, ranking third in the conference in opponent scoring (67.2 PPG), sixth in field goal percentage (42.1%), sixth in three-point percentage (32.3%), fourth in steals (7.9 SPG), and fourth in blocks (3.7 BPG). They have been improving on defense towards the end of the season, making them one of the most dangerous teams remaining in March Madness.

The Longhorns are led by Marcus Carr (15.8 PPG, 4.0 APG, 1.7 SPG), Sir’Jabari Rice (12.9 PPG, 45.7 FG%, 36.4 3P%), and Timmy Allen (10.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 48.1 FG%). Carr has been the Longhorns leading scorer, but he has struggled with his shot over the last five games, averaging 13 points and making just 38% of his attempts. It’s been a startling drop-off in the second half of the season, but he is still an elite defender with 11 steals over their last five games. Rice is their most dangerous shooter, despite coming off a bad showing against Penn State (13 points, 36.4 FG%, 16.7 3P%). He was on the bench to begin the season but earned his way to a starting spot thanks to his impressive scoring. Rice also can be a solid rebounder, despite being just 6’4”. Allen is a solid shooter and rebounder, with 15 rebounds in their first two tournament games. Look out for Dylan Disu as well, as the 6’9” forward has been incredible in this year’s tournament, with a combined 45 points, 20 rebounds, two steals, one block, and a 71% field goal percentage.

Free Pick: Texas -4

This Longhorns team is far better than Xavier on defense and has had the more impressive wins down the stretch. Beating Kansas twice is impressive, and Xavier hasn’t done anything close to that. They were blown out by Marquette in the Big East Championship and 0-3 against Indiana, Duke, and Gonzaga in their non-conference schedule. Texas is better than anyone in that group and can use its balance to overwhelm the Musketeers. Xavier’s shooting was outstanding in their last game, but it was shaky against Kennesaw State. You can also expect turnovers returning to haunt Xavier as they face a Texas team that is one of the best in the country at generating them.

This game may be close in the first half, thanks to Xavier’s offense, but the depth of Texas will give them the edge in the second half. We’re giving up the points to take Texas on Friday.

TODAY’S FREE PICK