There are only two matchups in the Sweet 16 featuring the best possible seeds in the region.
One was UCLA-Gonzaga, which ended up as one of the best games of the entire tournament.
The other is the final matchup of the round between No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Xavier.
The Longhorns have played like one of the best teams in college basketball over the last month, though Xavier poses a legitimate threat with its size and elite outside shooting.
Texas vs. Xavier pick
Texas -4.5 (-105 BetMGM)
Texas vs. Xavier prediction and analysis
Let’s start by acknowledging that, on paper, this line is probably shaded a point or two in Texas’ favor.
Advanced metrics have this projected as a 3-point win for Friday’s favorites, and early sharp money has come in on Xavier ahead of this Sweet 16 clash.
Yet 80% of the overall money is on the Longhorns in the hours ahead of the game.
And if you’ve seen them play at any point over the last month, you’d be hard-pressed to bet against them.
After losing its coach midseason and stumbling down the stretch in Big-12 play, Texas looked like a team with immense upside and the potential for an early upset.
Then the Longhorns rattled off six straight victories – including two blowout wins over No. 1 seed Kansas – to assert themselves as legitimate title contenders.
Five of the Longhorns’ last six opponents posted one of their five worst offensive showings of the year, and the sixth (Penn State) had its fifth-worst 3-point showing (8-of-28) of the entire season.
Texas is led by three senior guards – Marcus Carr (15.8 PPG), Sir’Jabari Rice (12.9) and Timmy Allen (10.3) – who spearhead the sixth-most experienced rotation in the country and are all capable of creating their own shot or setting up for others.
And then there’s Dylan Disu, who has emerged as one of the biggest X-factors of this entire tournament.
The senior forward averaged just 7.6 points over his first 30 games, but he’s scored in double figures in all five of the Longhorns’ postseason games – including a monstrous 28-point effort in the second round to single-handedly end Penn State’s season.
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Can Xavier’s defense hold up on Friday?
The Musketeers have improved on that end over the last four games, but much of that has been the result of 3-point variance, which is even less meaningful against a Texas team that does much of its damage inside the arc.
Conversely, Xavier’s offense ranks seventh in efficiency and fourth in 3-point percentage (38.9%) with four starters shooting 38.3% or better from deep.
We haven’t seen that marksmanship over the last two games, though, which has left Sean Miller’s group incredibly vulnerable to in-game runs from lesser foes.
With the perimeter shooting woes that we’ve seen from teams across this entire tournament, I’m even more skeptical of Xavier being able to find the holes in Texas’ surging defense.
If the Musketeers don’t have an answer for Disu and the Longhorns’ cadre of scoring guards, this one might not be all that close, after all.
Texas vs. Xavier odds (via BetMGM)
- Texas -4.5 (-105), moneyline -190
- Xavier +4.5 (-115), moneyline +160
- O/U 148.5 (over -115)