TV, Times, and Lines:
Date: Wednesday, November 24
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
Spread: Xavier -8.5
Total: O/U 136.5
The newly-ranked Xavier Musketeers have another Power 5 challenge tonight in their young season. This will be Xavier’s first time away from the Cintas Center this year, where they picked up a major win against the previously-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. In last Thursday’s win, the Musketeers led the Buckeyes for the entire game. This impressive performance catapulted Xavier into this week’s AP poll.
Taking advantage of the COVID extra year eligibility, Indianapolis native Paul Scruggs is now in his 5th year for the Musketeers. The 6’4” guard has been a top 3 scorer for Xavier in each of his past 4 seasons and has now entered the lead role. So far, in his super senior season, Scruggs has averaged 15.8 points per game, as well as leading the team in assists with 4.0 per game.
Alongside Paul Scruggs in the Musketeers backcourt is sophomore Colby Jones. The First Team Big East All-Freshman is quickly emerging as a star, who has quickly earned the respect of 4th year Xavier head coach Travis Steele. Jones leads the team in minutes played and despite standing only 6’5”, leads the team in rebounds per game with 9.5, 4.5 of which come on the offensive end. The sophomore has given one of 3 remaining unbeaten Big East teams great minutes this year, and will definitely take over the lead role next year with Paul Scruggs gone.
Another player to look out for on this Xavier team is junior Jack Nunge. Nunge played 4 seasons at Iowa, in which he redshirted in 2 of them. With 2 years of eligibility left, the 6’11” forward transferred to Xavier. Nunge played a contributing role for the No. 2 seeded Hawkeyes last year and has increased that role this year with the Musketeers. He is their top-scoring big with 9.8 points per game and also is second on the team in rebounds with 7.3 per game.
For the Cyclones, they face their first real test tonight. Despite their 4-0 start, their toughest matchup was an Oregon State team that has started the season 1-4 with home losses to Samford and Princeton. In order for the 8.5 point underdogs to have a chance, they need to lock up Xavier’s backcourt duo and limit them to less than 20 points combined. If anyone can do it, this Cyclones team would be a great candidate, with a defensive rating of 78.5 which ranks 10th in the country.
While both teams are unbeaten, Xavier has proven a lot more to start the season. With Vegas on their side, the Musketeers will not disappoint in an opportunity to advance in the NIT Season Tip-Off in front of a Barclays Center crowd. I believe that Xavier should have no trouble in this game and lead wire to wire just like they did against Ohio State. I think that Colby Jones will score at least 15 points tonight and Xavier will win by double digits.