In what should be a great game, the Xavier Musketeers battle the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the opening round of the South region. Find out who we are picking to cover the NCAA Basletball odds in this matchup.

The NCAA Basketball odds are tight right now, as sportsbooks have Notre Dame favored by only 2.5 points. Considering the Fighting Irish can be excellent on the defensive end, the matchup’s low total of 124 is understandable.

Lets preview this matchup and decide where us bettors should lay our NCAA Basketball picks.

After catching fire in late January, the Fighting Irish never looked back and were able to earn a BYE in the first round of the Big East tournament.

Their first game against South Florida was tough but they did manage the win. Unfortunately, the good times ended there, with the Fighting Irish falling to Louisville 50-64 in an anemic offensive performance. 

Notre Dame shot just 35.8 percent (compare that to Louisville’s 56.0 percent) and hit only 2-of-17 from beyond the arc. Down by 16 at half, the Fighting Irish just couldn’t get anything going to ignite any sort of comeback.

Excellent first round matchup

Xavier vs. Notre DameThe Musketeers made a deep run into their conference tournament as well, beating Dayton and St. Louis en-route to the finals against St. Bonaventure.

Despite 33 points from Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, Xavier had absolutely no way to stop Andrew Nicholson, the Atlantic 10 player of the year. He finished with 26 points (7-of-13 FG), 14 rebounds and an amazing eight block to lead the Bonnies to the A10 title.

Sure it was a disappointing finish, but Xavier can quickly make up for it in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

For me, there probably wasn’t a more disappointing player than Kenny Frease this season. Instead of taking over during his senior year, his numbers were down across the board and his play signified Xavier’s up-and-down campaign.

Luckily for Frease, his teammates stepped up, largely Holloway, Lyons and fellow guard Dezmine Wells. They all averaged in double figures for the Musketeers this season. 

Still, because you never really know what Xavier team is going to show up, I’m picking Notre Dame to cover the small number on Friday. 

Notre Dame to move on

A lot of credit should go to Mike Brey for what he’s done with the Fighting Irish. Leading man Tim Abromaitis was lost early on, but the team banded together and made a furious charge during conference play. 

A huge season out of Jack Cooley helped. He filled the void inside perfectly, ending the year with 12.4 PPG and 9.0 RPG, both of which were team-highs. 

The Fighting Irish backcourt duo of Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins (who are roommates) is the key for Friday though. They’re matched up with Holloway and Lyons, who will be central to the Musketeers’ chances of victory. 

Notre Dame is team that plays tremendous defense and limits mistakes. Xavier may have the standout individual players, but in my book the Fighting Irish are the better team and therefore I’m backing the higher seed with my sports picks to cash. 

FREE Pick: Notre Dame Fighting Irish -2.5

TREND BREAKDOWN

Musketeers are 1-7-1 ATS in their last 9 games overall

Fighting Irish are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall

Fighting Irish are 1-7 ATS in their last 8 neutral site games

OVER is 5-0 in Xavier’s last 5 games as an underdog 

UNDER is 20-9 in Notre Dame’s last 29 games overall