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Matchup Analysis - No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 11 Xavier

NCAAB Spreads

Back in January, the Xavier Musketeers truly had the look of a Sweet 16 team. They were playing great basketball, were ranked in the Top 25 with Top 25 RPI and SOS numbers as well, and they were sitting towards the top of the Big East. Then they lost Edmond Sumner for the season to a torn ACL, and all looked lost. They swooned through the end of the season and probably needed to beat Creighton in their opening game of the Big East Tournament just to reach the NCAAs.

But now that they're here, they've picked up two really big wins against good teams and will look to do some more serious damage in the Sweet 16 against the Arizona Wildcats.

Arizona Wildcats vs. Xavier Musketeers
Date and Time
: Thursday, March 23, 2017, 10:09 p.m. ET
Location: SAP Center, San Jose, CA
Sweet 16 Odds at BookMaker.eu: Arizona -7.5, O/U 143.5
Arizona vs. Xavier TV Coverage: TBS

When Arizona Has the Ball…

We hate to start off with foul shooting as key for the Wildcats, but after once making 17 in a row against North Dakota as a team, they followed that up by going 19-of-23 from the charity stripe against St. Mary's. That's the type of stuff that wins games and puts them away at this level, and for betting purposes, every single point seems to make the utmost difference with point spreads that are seemingly always virtually spot on.

It's easy to say that Xavier has to find an answer for Lauri Markkanen, but few teams really have any sort of counter to a man who can shoot threes, is a bull in the paint and can shoot over anyone guarding him. Markannen has done it the easy way and the hard way thus far in the NCAA Tournament, as he went 8-of-12 from the field and largely got whatever shot he wanted versus North Dakota and went to the line 10 times and converted nine against Jock Landale and the Gaels on Sunday.

The formula that Xavier used against Florida State will have a shot against Arizona as well. The Musketeers absolutely have to pack in a very tight zone and dare the Wildcats to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. Allonzo Trier and company could very well make the X-Men pay for that, but it's probably the best chance they've got.

When Xavier Has the Ball…

Well, well, well. Looky here at what team has all of a sudden caught a massive amount of fire from beyond the arc? The Musketeers know that they aren't challenging anyone in the paint. They didn't have a lot of success doing so against Maryland early on, and they never really even tried in the first half against Florida State. Then again, why should they have tried when they were hitting 64.7 percent of their shots from distance?

Trevon Bluiett has always really needed a counterpart offensively to take some of the pressure off of him, and all of a sudden, even without Sumner, he has it again with Kaiser Gates. Gates has come off the bench and knocked down seven three-pointers in two games, and that's precisely what the Musketeers must get from either Gates or someone else to have a shot against a rangy defense that can really shut down foes when it gets going.

The X Factor

It's really hard for No. 11 seeds to continue to march on into the second week of the NCAA Tournament. No. 6 seeds often aren't all that great, and No. 3 seeds can be caught napping in the second round, but it's clear that the Wildcats have the better of these two teams by a wide margin. There's a reason why there hasn't been a No. 11 seed in the Elite Eight in over a decade and why there has only been one No. 11 seed ever beat a No. 2 in the Sweet 16, that coming way back in 1986.