The second day of the Friday slate tips off in Greensboro Coliseum for the Midwest Region, as 14-seed Kennesaw State faces off against Xavier, the three-seed. It is time to continue our March Madness odds series with a Kennesaw State-Xavier prediction and pick.

Xavier comes into the game at 25-9, losing in the Big East tournament finals to Marquette. Xavier is 12th in the nation in scoring, averaging 81.4 points per game. Kennesaw State made a comeback to beat Liberty in the Atlantic Sun tournament, and get the automatic bid to the big dance. Led by fourth-year head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim, they are making their first-ever appearance in the Division I NCAA tournament.

Here are the Kennesaw State-Xavier March Madness odds, courtesy of FanDuel. 

March Madness Odds: Kennesaw State-Xavier Odds

Kennesaw State: +12.5 (-106)

Xavier: -12.5 (-114)

Over: 153.5 (-115)

Under: 153.5 (-105)

How To Watch Kennesaw State vs. Xavier


Stream: NCAA March Madness App

Time: 12:40 PM ET/ 9:40 AM PT

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Why Kennesaw State Could Cover The Spread

Anything can happen in March, and that is the best place to start of Kennesaw State. The Owls outscore opponents by an average of 6.4 points per game, and outrebound their opponent by 31.4 to 30.5 on a per-game basis. Their average of .967 points per possession is good for 104th in the nation in that regard. Chris Youngblood leads the way for Kennesaw State, averaging 14.7 points per game for the Owls, which was good for 13th in the Atlantic Sun this year. His 2.3 three-pointers per game was 11th in the conference, and his 41.1% percentage from behind the arc places him right behind Demaree King of Jacksonville State for fourth in the conference. 

On the glass, it is Brandon Stroud leading the way, with 6.5 rebounds per game.  This mark was tied for 5th in the conference. Demond Robinson was also a leader there, with 5.8 rebounds per game, good for 15th. Terrell Burden helps round out the primary group for the Owls, giving 4.2 assists per game, which was 4th in the conference. 

The biggest reason to pick Kennesaw State is luck. According to KenPom, Kennesaw State ranks 3rd in the nation in luck factor, second in the tournament behind UNC Asheville. Meanwhile, Xavier ranks 207th, ahead of only 15 teams in the field of 68. March upsets sometimes take some luck, and Kennesaw State has that on their side. 

Why Xavier Could Cover The Spread

Xavier is a dominant offense. They rank eighth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive ratings. They are plus 250 in scoring margin this year, and score the 12th most points per game in all of Division I. Their average of 1.014 points per possession is 16th in all of college basketball, and they have the second-best three-point shooting percentage is college basketball as well. Xavier also takes care of the ball, with a 1.53 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is good for 12th in the NCAA. 

The defense leaves something to be desired though. They rank 286th in defensive scoring, allowing 74.1 points per game. They sit 229th in forcing turnovers, at 11.91 turnovers per game. The struggles continue beyond the arc on defense as well.  They allow a 35.9% conversion rate for opponents shooting three-pointers, good for 294th in the nation. Still, they are ranked 74th in adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom, which gives them an adjusted efficiency margin that is 16th in the nation. 

For all the struggles on the defensive end of the floor, their offense led by Souley Boum covers it up. Boum put up 16.5 points per game this year, with 4.4 assists per game to lead this Xavier squad. Those numbers were good for second and sixth in the Big East respectively. The guard from Oakland, California will be the best player on the floor. Even if Kennesaw State guards him tight, he can pass to Colby Jones who was 9th in the Big East in scoring. It will be hard for the Owls to guard this one-two punch.

Final Kennesaw State-Xavier Prediction & Pick

Luck runs out at some point.  While this game is being played on St. Patrick’s Day, the luck of the Irish may not be with Kennesaw State. Kennesaw State is ranked 91st in points per game this season. Even with a sometimes bad defense from Xavier, they will not score enough points to keep up. Kennesaw State only scored 82 or more points in ten of their 34 games on the year. Meaning, less than one-third of the time the Owls put up enough points to take down Xavier at their average.

Final Kennesaw State-XavierPrediction & Pick: Xavier -12.5 (-114)