Xavier vs Kennesaw State March Madness Betting Preview

Big East Runner-Up Heavily Favored Over ASUN Champions

The first round of the NCAA Tournament continues Friday with No. 3 seed Xavier vs. No. 14 seed Kennesaw State tipping off at 12:30 p.m. on truTV. The winner will move on to play either No. 6 seed Iowa State or No. 11 seed Mississippi State/Pittsburgh in the second round of the Midwest Regional on Sunday.

College basketball lines have Xavier as an 11.5-point favorite and -650 on the moneyline. The over/under is 151.5. (Odds change frequently, be sure to check for the most up to date changes.)

Xavier Musketeers: Tourney Drought Ends for Big East Runner-Up

Xavier is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2018 and 29th all-time. In its most recent trip, Xavier was a No. 1 seed and lost in the second round to Florida State. The Musketeers have advanced as far as the Elite Eight on three different occasions (2004, 2008, 2017). This is the school’s first tournament under head coach Sean Miller.

How They Got Here

Xavier was safely in the field of 68 entering championship week, but the Musketeers only improved their seeding with a run to the Big East Tournament final. The Musketeers beat DePaul and then Creighton for their ninth Quad 1 victory of the season before running out of steam against Marquette.

The Musketeers started 7-0 in Big East play and finished 15-5 during the regular season, with two victories over UConn, and will head into the NCAAs at 25-9 overall. It’s the school’s winningest season since 2018, when it last made the tournament.

How Far Will They Go

Sweet 16? Elite Eight? Xavier doesn’t have the best chance to win March Madness, but there’s still a lot of potential here. The Musketeers were battle-tested in the Big East and should get past Kennesaw State on talent alone. Assuming chalk holds, Iowa State would pose a much bigger test in the second round, but the Musketeers appeared to find their rhythm in the conference tournament.

The Musketeers, by the way, are +105 to reach the Sweet 16 and +900 to win the region.

Kennesaw State Owls: ASun champs a newcomer to the dance

This will be Kennesaw State’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since transitioning to Division I. The school won a Division II national championship in 2004.

How They Got Here

Kennesaw State strung together wins over Queens, Lipscomb and Liberty to with the ASUN Conference Tournament. Even after going 15-3 to capture the regular season title, an automatic bid was the school’s only path to the NCAA Tournament.

The Owls are 26-8 overall and will head into tournament off five straight victories.

How Far Will They Go

Kennesaw State’s a nice story, having made the NCAA Tournament for the first time, but odds are it won’t be sticking around for long. While a No. 14 seed has defeated a No. 3 seed 22 times since the field expanded in 1985, Xavier is too deep and balanced to go out this early.

Handicapping The Game

Xavier vs. Kennesaw State is a big-time mismatch on paper. Most 3/14 games are. Xavier is a machine offensively, with multiple players capable of going off at any moment. The Musketeers can shoot it from deep — they rank fifth in the country in 3-point shooting at 39.8% — or muscle up in the paint. That versatility has become their calling card. Kennesaw State, which is 0-4 in Quad 1 games (Florida, VCU, San Diego State and Indiana), hasn’t beaten anyone of Xavier’s caliber this season. The Owls’ two best victories came against Liberty.

Xavier’s depth, with four healthy players averaging double figures in scoring, should overwhelm Kennesaw State. UTEP transfer Souley Boum is the Musketeers’ best shooter and top scorer, averaging a team-high 16.5 points. But even if the Owls manage to bottle him up, the Musketeers have other options with which to turn, even after losing star forward Zach Freemantle to a foot injury. Look no further than Jack Nunge, a 7-footer who is 39 of 92 (.424) from deep. Or 6-foot-6 guard Colby Jones, who can dish it but also score.

Furthermore, Kennesaw State has seen very few, if any, teams that can match Xavier’s length on defense. The Musketeers are formidable on that side of the floor too. They rank 70th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, and should cause Kennesaw State fits.

If you’re thinking about betting on Xavier vs. Kennesaw State, know this: the Owls were one of the best teams against the spread this season (20-10-1), covering 66.7% of the time. (Odds change frequently, be sure to check for the most up to date changes.)

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