The 2022 Big East Tournament tips off Wednesday afternoon from Madison Square Garden in New York – no conference tournament has a more historic location – with No. 8 Xavier taking on No. 9 Butler. The Musketeers are barely on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble as things stand, but a loss against the disappointing Bulldogs would be devastating. Xavier is -6.5 at Caesars Sportsbook.
Winning the Big East Tournament would solve all of Xavier's worries about Selection Sunday, but the Musketeers are +1700 long shots to do that. Xavier and Creighton are the only two current Big East schools yet to win the event but they are also still fairly new to the league.
Xavier is a solid 18-12 overall but its 8-11 record in the Big East is damaging. Coach Travis Steele's team has a NET Ranking of 36 with a 5-9 record against Quad 1 opponents. Xavier does have solid non-conference wins over Ohio State, Norfolk State and Virginia Tech and really just one bad loss to DePaul in conference action. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Musketeers among his "Last Four In," while CBS Sports' Jerry Palm has them as a No. 10 seed in the Big Dance and facing No. 7 Iowa in the first round.
The bad news is that Xavier is not playing well as it had lost five straight games before crushing atrocious Georgetown in the regular-season finale Saturday. Junior Jack Nunge leads Xavier in scoring at 13.1 ppg and blocks at 1.4 bpg while ranking second in rebounding 7.5 rpg. He was the only player on the team named to an All-Big East team and that was honorable mention. The club badly missed senior guard Nate Johnson for a late four-game stretch when he was out injured, but he returned for the final two and averaged 18.0 ppg in them.
Butler (13-18, 6-14 Big East) is playing out the string and was swept by Xavier this season, losing 87-72 at home and 68-66 in Cincinnati. Xavier holds a 2-1 advantage in Big East Tournament meetings, but the Bulldogs won in the first round last year in overtime. Steele is a 2004 Butler graduate.
The winner of this game faces regular-season champion Providence on Thursday
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Will Xavier make the NCAA Tournament field?
- Yes -170
- No +140
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