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20.12.2023

Xavier @ St. John's Game Preview and Pick: Musketeers Continue to be Profitable ATS

Rick Pitino will officially be back to coaching Big East basketball tonight when his St. John’s Red Storm plays host to the Xavier Musketeers. Pitino’s team has gotten off to a 7-3 start heading into tonight’s Big East opener, but only one of those wins has come against a non-mid-major school.

The school hired Pitino to bring the Red Storm back to the promised land in this storied conference, but with a scrappy Xavier team in town, their conference opener could be a tougher test than expected.

Game Preview

By beating Winthrop over the weekend, the Xavier Musketeers have officially won two consecutive games since their brutal three-game losing streak. With losses to Delaware and Oakland already this season, the Musketeers already have a few blemishes on their resume heading into conference play. Still, on the positive side, they have also flashed the defensive ability to hang with some of the top teams in the country.

The Musketeers have an adjusted defensive efficiency rating of 95.9, which ranks 30th in the country on Bart Torvik. Getting clean looks on the Musketeers is a tall task for opposing offenses, as they’ve held teams to the 24th-lowest effective field goal percentage in the country at 44.7%.

Xavier should be able to fall back on their defense most nights, but the concern for them moving forward will be their offense. Despite having two strong scoring threats in Quincy Olivari (17.6 PPG) and Desmond Claude (15.5 PPG), the Musketeers have struggled to shoot it consistently, ranking 145th in effective field goal percentage (51%).

The Musketeers play style sets up an interesting matchup tonight since St. John’s is the opposite of them in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Scoring hasn’t been a problem for the Red Storm, as they are 35th in the country in adjusted offensive rating on Bart Torvik. St. John’s has four guys averaging in double figures, with Joel Soriano pacing the team with 18 PPG and a 143.7 individual offensive rating.

Defense is where things get a bit hairy for Pitino’s team, as they are 97th in adjusted defensive rating on KenPom, and against their three toughest tests this season, they allowed an average of 87.6 points per game. While they’ve been able to force turnovers at a decent rate, the Red Storm have struggled to defend the perimeter, allowing opponents to shoot 35% from three.

Pick for the Game

Xavier will open Big East play as (+6.5) point underdogs on the BetMGM Sportsbook, and I think they can hang tough on the road. The Musketeers are 7-3 ATS this season and have covered all three games in which they’ve been underdogs, while St. John’s is 4-4 ATS when favored up to this point.

The Red Storm may have some offensive firepower, but they have yet to play a defense as highly rated as the Musketeers. St. John’s has preferred to get a majority of their scoring done inside the three-point line, but that is where Xavier thrives the most defensively. Opponents are shooting 44.9% on all two-point attempts and 50.3% on all close two-point attempts against the Musketeers this season.

As much as they prefer to get to the basket, St. John’s is not a team that gets to the free throw line often, as they rank 352nd in free throw rate. This means they won’t be getting a lot of clean and easy points tonight, as they’ll have to work extra hard for uncontested looks. As long as Xavier can continue to be a pesky defensive team, I think Quincy Olivari and Desmond Claude can do enough to keep them in the game offensively.

Recap

  • Xavier Musketeers (+6.5)(-110) on BetMGM

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