How to Watch, Listen and Stream
Game Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, OH
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Villanova is a 3.5-point favorite, though they opened as a 4-point fave.
Records ATS: Villanova 13-12 | Xavier 11-12
Villanova beat Xavier 79-54 in the visiting team’s “annual” blowout in Philadelphia. Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins each scored 20 and Villanova shot 53% from the field, dropped nineteen assists, and forced twelve turnovers.
Xavier still had the services of Edmond Sumner, although he missed 12 of 15 shots in 35 minutes. Trevon Bluiett struggled as well, adding only five points on 10 shots. Xavier shot 18 percent from beyond the arc and was stunted by the Wildcats’ stifling defense.
Certain games in certain atmospheres embody college basketball. For this reason, Villanova at Xavier was circled on everyone’s proverbial basketball schedule in November. If the Big East’s best and defending National Champions entering the Cintas Center doesn’t send chills up the spine, I recommend seeing a chiropractor at 2:30 on Saturday.
Even though it won’t be the usual uptempo, don’t-blink basketball as a result of Sumner’s injury, watching and Jenkins, Hart and Jalen square off against Bluiett, Quentin Goodin and J.P. Macura is a treat for those who adore difficult shot making and well-executed offenses.
For every Brunson pick and role feed to Darryl Reynolds, expect a Macura pick and pop synchronized with Kaiser Gates. For every pin down getting Kris Jenkins the on the 3-point line, you can hold your breath until the next Trevon Bluiett post up followed by a baseline spin.
The defending champs, coming off blowout victories against Georgetown and St. John’s, have been playing some of the best and prettiest basketball in the country this season. Xavier, still recovering from the emotional blow dealt by the ACL of Sumner, has squeezed out wins over DePaul, Creighton and Seton Hall.
Brunson and Goodin will probably end up deciding the matchup. Can the freshman defend one of the top and one of the most efficient points guards the Big East has seen in the last decade? Who can have more assists and who can take more steals? While Brunson certainly has the edge in experience and in track-record, Goodin has played above the most optimistic expectations.
When 2:30 comes around on Saturday, the Cintas Center will feel like the epicenter of the college basketball world. Tens of thousands will admire and the big moment will bring big opportunity for the less talented, more inconsistent Xavier squad. But, the Musketeers have the talent to stake its claim as the better team after two hours of basketball on Saturday against the Wildcats.