Do you remember that classic DMX banger “X Gon’ Give It To Ya”? Of course you do. Who doesn’t?
Well, X done gave it to rival Cincinnati in the Crosstown Shootout last time out to improve to 6-0. The Musketeers will look for their seventh win of the season when Oklahoma comes to the campus of Xavier University for an important early-season non-conference clash.
This will only be the third game of the season for Lon Kruger’s Sooners. The lack of reps doesn’t seem to be much of a factor in the betting markets, as Xavier is only favored by one point with a total of 147 for Wednesday night’s tip on FS1.
Let’s dig into the data for this one and find a play on the game.
We’ve only got two data points for Oklahoma on the young season. The Sooners blew out UTSA by 39 and played a tight conference tilt with TCU, but came away with an 82-78 victory. The Sooners have had no problems scoring to this point, with 1.304 and 1.238 points per possession in their two games. They played well defensively against UTSA, but struggled against TCU with 1.177 PPP against.
Senior Austin Reaves will be the go-to guy for Oklahoma this season. He was an impact transfer from a toxic situation at Wichita State that shot 48% on two-pointers and nearly 85% from the free throw line last season for the Sooners. He only shot 26% from deep last season after shooting 42.5% from three in 2018 with Wichita State. Positive regression on the three-point side should come this season and he could be one of the top scoring threats in the Big 12.
Oklahoma is light on length, as senior Brady Manek stands 6-foot-9 and senior Kur Kuath is 6-foot-10. Otherwise, Oklahoma could have some problems banging on the boards and protecting the rim this season. Rebounding was an issue last season for the Sooners, as they ranked 303rd in the nation in ORB%. They did okay on the defensive glass, but also had the lowest free throw rate against while having the 17th-ranked defense on two-point shots.
The Sooners did lose top defender and lead defensive rebounder Kristian Doolittle from last year’s squad, though, so I would expect regression in both areas for Oklahoma this season.
We have a lot more data to go on with Xavier for the 2020-21 season. The Musketeers are 6-0 and all six games have come against Division I competition. They have been some very close calls in there for Travis Steele’s team. Xavier only beat Bradley by one, Toledo by three, and needed overtime to top Eastern Kentucky.
For the most part, Xavier checks a lot of boxes this season. Their two-point defense is ninth in the nation and their two-point offense ranks 31st. Xavier has played good defense without fouling, ranks in the top 35 in eFG% on offense and the top 20 in eFG% on defense.
Freshman Dwon Odom, the top recruit Steele has gotten to Xavier, is off to a bit of a slow start, but KyKy Tandy looks improved this season. Gardner-Webb transfer Nate Johnson is shooting 52% from 3. As a whole, Xavier is shooting 58% on two-point shots and a respectable 35% from 3.
It’s too early to make determinations about the long-term forecast for Xavier, but this is a team that was 19th per Bart Torvik in adjusted defensive efficiency last season, but barely in the top 100 in offense. If Xavier can improve offensively, this will be a very dangerous team come March. To this point, it looks like the shot selection has been better and the addition of Johnson should help an offense that was 281st in the nation in 3P% last season.
Pick & Analysis
Oklahoma probably has more upside over the course of the season than Xavier. Xavier is a quality team that has more reps, more data points, and more rhythm in the early going, which is why the Musketeers are favored. Ultimately, Oklahoma is the better roster and the better team, but Xavier is 6-0 and has played a decent schedule to this point.
Oklahoma should be a different kind of beast, though. There is a misconception about Kruger’s teams that they are offense only, but they’ve been top 32 in adjusted defensive efficiency in five of the last six seasons.
We’ll take the short-priced road dog who should probably be a favorite.