Ole Miss provided the tournament’s first big comeback with a stunning four-point win over BYU in an epic First Four showdown Tuesday night. The Rebels will look to sustain the momentum from that stirring come-from-behind win when they take on No. 6 Xavier in a marquee first round clash at Jacksonville this coming Thursday.
Read on below for an in-depth breakdown of this West Region showdown and while you’re at it, you can check out our first-round previews of Georgetown vs. Eastern Washington and Louisville vs. UC Irvine.[sc:MarchMadness ]
March Madness No. 6 Xavier Musketeers vs. No. 11 Ole Miss Rebels Preview
Where: Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville
When: Thursday, March 19, 4:10 PM ET
Line: Xavier Musketeers (-3) vs. Ole Miss Rebels (+3); total: 145.0 – view all March Madness lines
Betting on the Xavier Musketeers
Xavier surprised plenty of experts on Selection Sunday when it nabbed the sixth seed in the Midwest Region of the national tournament. Truth be told, though, it wasn’t a complete shock that the Musketeers grabbed a higher seeding as they exceeded expectations in a tough Big East Conference this season.
[sc:NCAAB240banner ]Although Xavier started off the season with losses to UTEP, Long Beach and Auburn and finished with an even 9-9 slate in the Big East, the Musketeers managed to climb the seeding charts with their strong showing in the Big East tournament. Xavier reached the tournament finals by beating Butler in the quarters before edging past the Georgetown Hoyas in a thrilling semifinal showdown.
Even though they failed to beat No. 1 Villanova in the Big East finals, there were still plenty of positives for the Musketeers to take heading into their first-round clash with Ole Miss. First off, the Musketeers are one of the best passing teams in the country today. They are ninth in the nation in assists department, averaging 16.4 dimes per game.
Thanks to that excellent ball movement, Xavier is among the highest-scoring teams in the NCAA this season, with the Musketeers averaging 73.6 points per contest. Three players are scoring in double-figures for Xavier this season, namely Matt Stainbrook (12.0 PPG), Trevon Bluiett (11.7 PPG) and Myles Davis (10.7 PPG).
Stainbrook was unstoppable in the opening two rounds of the Big East tourney averaging 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in those two games. He was ineffective though in the championship game, scoring just four points on a horrid 2-of-8 shooting from the field.
Xavier needs Stainbrook to play a whole lot better than that for them to go deep in the tournament. Aside from leading the team in scoring, Stainbrook also paces the team in the rebounding department, grabbing 6.8 boards per outing. He will have a battle in his hands, however, against an Ole Miss side that allowed just 12 paint points in their First Four showdown with BYU.
The Musketeers are 6-4 SU and 5-4-1 ATS in their last 10 games.
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Betting on the Ole Miss Rebels
There’s just no quit with the Ole Miss Rebels.
The Rebels kept alive their NCAA title hopes with a thrilling 94-90 win over the BYU Cougars in their First Four clash on Tuesday night. Ole Miss came back from a 17-point halftime deficit to record the nerve-wracking victory and forge a first-round showdown with No. 6 Xavier.
Stefan Moody led the Rebels’ uprising, scoring 26 points and dishing out five assists. He shot 10-of-18 from the field as he powered a key 15-2 run in the second half that tilted the game in Ole Miss’ favor. It has been that way all season for the Rebels with Moody leading the team in scoring, averaging 16.3 points per game this campaign.
Even though it was a high-scoring ballgame, it was the Rebels’ work on the defensive end that spelled the difference in the contest. The Rebels forced BYU to commit a total of 15 turnovers. That enabled Ole Miss to grab a 25-0 edge in the points off turnovers department. That is the most points the Rebels has scored this season off turnovers and also the fewest they have allowed.
Also contributing largely to their victory was their dominance inside the shaded area. The Rebels scored 42 paint points against the Cougars, the most it has scored in a game this season. They scored 30 of those 42 points in the pivotal second half.
A positive sign for head coach Andy Kennedy heading into their matchup with Xavier is their balanced offensive attack. Six players scored in double-figures for Ole Miss in the BYU game including all five of its starters. The Rebels are 52nd in the NCAA in scoring this season, averaging 72.6 points per game.
They will fancy their chances of wreaking havoc against a Xavier defense that is allowing 67.6 points per contest this campaign, 202nd in the entire nation. The Rebels are 5-5 SU and 4-6 ATS in their last 10 games
Xavier (-3) wins, 70-62, to advance into the Round of 32.[sc:NCAAB490Banner ]
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