No. 1 Gonzaga cleared the last hurdle facing them, defeating St. Mary’s by 13 (pushing against the spread) in the West Coast Conference championship game on Tuesday in Las Vegas. The Bulldogs will likely enter the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed for the second-straight year. Last year’s effort ended in the title game in a blowout loss to Baylor, so the Zags have worked all year to return to this point to try and win one more game.
Today, several games featuring teams who need wins to solidify their standing on the tournament bubble take place, so while there are no top-25 teams in action today, there will be plenty of drama across the country. We sort through it all to present our NCAAB best bets for this Wednesday in college basketball.
H2: Butler Bulldogs vs. Xavier Musketeers- Big East Tournament First Round
H3: The Bet: Xavier -5
The Big East Tournament opens up today at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and while 7-seed Xavier against 11-seed Butler is not a matchup you would think of when recalling the famous matchups that this event has produced, the game means everything for the Musketeers.
Spending much of the season in the top 25, Xavier went through a stretch of losing seven of eight games before ending the season on a high note in a 97-75 win over Georgetown. That slump left the Musketeers at 18-12 (8-11 in the Big East) and squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble.
Butler is struggling just as badly, however. The Bulldogs lost their last five games of the regular season, though they faced a difficult run with their final four opponents all likely NCAA tournament teams.
Xavier defeated Butler twice this year, covering in a 87-72 win on the road and then escaping with a two-point win at home in early February. Both teams are close to even defensively (Xavier allows two more points per game), but the difference lies in the offense. The Musketeers average 10 more points per game, as Butler’s 63 points-per-game output ranks 339th in Division 1.
The Bulldogs have been better against the spread recently (4-1 ATS in their last five as opposed to 1-4 for Xavier), but with the stakes extremely high for Xavier, expect their best effort and a solid victory today.
H2: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Northwestern Wildcats- Big Ten Tournament First Round
H3: The Bet: Nebraska +4
It’s hard to believe that a team with a 4-16 record in the Big Ten is coming into the conference tournament with momentum, but that’s the case for Nebraska today against Northwestern (14-15, 7-13 Big Ten) today in Indianapolis.
After a 1-16 start in the conference, Nebraska announced that head coach Fred Hoiberg would return to the team next season. That seemed to light a match underneath the Cornhuskers, as they would go on to win their next three games–all on the road–including impressive wins at Ohio State and Wisconsin. The win over the Badgers on Sunday prevented Wisconsin from winning the outright league regular-season title.
The Huskers come into this one against Northwestern as four-point underdogs. The Wildcats beat Nebraska by double-digits twice this season but won just two of its final seven games.
Nebraska’s turnaround has been thanks to its defense. Allowing 78 points per game on average, the Huskers held Penn State and Ohio State to 70 and Wisconsin to 73 on Sunday. The Wildcats allow 68 PPG on average while both offenses score around 73 points per game.
Despite their poor 10-21 overall record, Nebraska is above .500 (17-14) against the spread, while Northwestern is 14-15 ATS. The Huskers have covered in five of their last seven games, and the Wildcats are 2-3-1 ATS in their last six. It’s tough to ignore how Nebraska has played in the last couple of weeks, and Northwestern hasn’t been strong enough to think that they will be able to send the Huskers back to woes from earlier this season.
H2: Clemson Tigers vs. Virginia Tech Hokies- ACC Tournament Second Round
H3: The Bet: Under 135
The Tigers pulled out a close cover yesterday over North Carolina State in one of our best bets, and we’re backing Clemson as underdogs today. The Tigers are winners of five straight and play a Virginia Tech team that’s won nine of 11 but may have trouble getting into the NCAA tournament unless they can beat Duke in Brooklyn later this week.
The Hokies’ problem is that they don’t have any impressive non-conference wins, and they also have bad losses in the league, including defeats at Boston College and at home against North Carolina State. VT ended the regular season with a four-point loss at Clemson on Sunday.
The Tigers have improved their defense during this winning streak, as they are allowing 68 points per game on average but held the Hokies to 59 on Saturday. Virginia Tech has kept teams to just 58 PPG in their last 10, so expect a low-scoring contest here.
The over-under is 135, and the teams combined for just 122 last weekend. With both teams being defensive-minded, expect them to grind out possessions to keep the score low, especially in a tournament situation when there’s so much on the line.
Both teams are trending towards the under as well–Clemson has gone under in five of their last six games and in 10 of their 16 games away from home this year. The Hokies, meanwhile, have gone under the number in seven of their last eight and in 18 of their 31 games this season.