Xavier Vs. Kennesaw State Preview, History And NCAA Tournament Odds In Ohio

Written By Mike Breen on March 15, 2023
Xavier March Madness Ohio Sports Betting

Cincinnati’s Xavier University will be representing Ohio in the 2023 Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Xavier is one of only two teams from the Buckeye State to make it to the Big Dance this year. X will be repping Ohio alongside Kent State, which won the MAC tournament and received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Coming out of the Big East Conference, the Xavier Musketeers go into the tournament sitting at No. 13 in the AP Top 25 college basketball poll.

With Ohio sports betting launching statewide on Jan. 1, this year marks the first time Ohio basketball fans can legally wager on March Madness. Here’s what you should know about the Xavier Musketeers ahead of their first-round tournament matchup.

Xavier to face Kennesaw State in NCAA Tournament first round

For this year’s NCAA tournament, Xavier earned a 3 seed.

The Musketeers will face off in the Midwest Region in the first round of the tournament against the Kennesaw State Owls, a 14 seed.

Kennesaw State earned an automatic bid to the tournament after winning the ASUN Conference tournament for the first time in school history. This is the Owls’ first trip to the NCAA tournament.

No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Kennesaw State 

  • Game date: Friday, March 17
  • Game time: 12:40 p.m. ET
  • Game site: Greensboro, North Carolina
  • TV broadcast: truTV

Musketeers favored to win first-round matchup

Kennesaw State comes into the tournament with a ton of excitement and energy, but the Owls’ inexperience on the big stage will make it especially difficult for them to pull off an upset and take down Xavier in their first-round matchup.

Xavier is favored to defeat Kennesaw State on Friday in the first-ever matchup between the two teams. Here’s how FanDuel Sportsbook Ohio currently has the odds set:

  • Spread: Xavier -11.5 (-108); Kennesaw State +11.5 (-112)
  • Over/Under: Over 151.5 (-110); Under 151.5 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Xavier -720; Kent State +500

Sportsbooks have Xavier’s odds of winning the Midwest Region at between +700 (DraftKings) and +1100 (Betrivers). BetMGM and DraftKings have the odds of the Musketeers reaching the Final Four at +1000. Xavier’s odds of winning the National Championship range between +4000 (BetRivers) and +6000 (DraftKings).

Head coach Sean Miller’s return sparks Xavier

This is Xavier’s 29th time making the NCAA tournament. The team has a 28-28 record in tournament games.

The Musketeers are returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2018. That year, Xavier was a 1 seed, but they were knocked out of the tournament in the second round by 9-seeded Florida State.

Shortly after exiting the 2018 tournament, coach Chris Mack — the winningest head coach in Xavier history — announced he was leaving the team to take the head coaching job at Louisville.

Xavier assistant coach Travis Steele was promoted to the head coaching job but, after missing the tournament four straight years, he was fired at the end of the 2021-22 season. Shortly after, interim coach Jonas Hayes led Xavier to an NIT Championship, a testament to the talent on that team, a lot of which returned for the 2022-23 season.

Steele’s departure opened the door for Sean Miller’s return. Miller previously coached Xavier from 2004 to 2009, taking the team to the NCAA tournament four of the five seasons he was there. Xavier made it to the Elite Eight in 2008 and the Sweet Sixteen in 2009, after which Miller left to coach Arizona.

Miller had success in Arizona over 12 seasons but he and the team’s involvement in the 2017 men’s basketball corruption scandal — which led to Arizona having to vacate dozens of wins over two seasons — cast a pall over Miller’s tenure.

Xavier’s 2022-23 season saw team return to form

Still, Xavier fans were thrilled with the announcement in March 2022 that Miller was returning to coach the Muskies. Based on the team’s performance this year, their excitement was justified, as Xavier seems to be back among the elite NCAA programs.

The Musketeers enter the tournament with a 25-9 record.

Xavier has a strong core of players who can score in bunches. The team ranks 11th nationally in scoring offense, putting up an average of 81.4 points per game.

Though Xavier lost its second-leading scorer, senior forward Zach Freemantle, to a season-ending foot injury down the stretch, the Musketeers still found ways to win. They do a good job of spreading the scoring around, led by the trio of Souley Boum (16.5 ppg), Colby Jones (15.2 ppg) and Jack Nunge (14.1 ppg).

Despite occasionally showing an inability to close out close games (as they did in losses against Butler and DePaul), Xavier was impressive all year in an especially tough Big East. Xavier notched two wins each against conference rivals UConn, Creighton and Providence, who are all also headed to the Big Dance.

Kennesaw State having historic season

Kennesaw State is one of Georgia’s largest universities, located in the city of Kennesaw, about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta.

The Kennesaw State Owls are having the best year in their history. This marks the first time the Owls have made it to the Division I NCAA tournament, though they won the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2004 (their last year playing in Division II).

This season, Kennesaw State became the fastest team in NCAA history to make the tournament following a one-win season, doing so in just three years. In the 2019-20 season, head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim’s first with the team, Kennesaw State were 1-28 on the season.

The Owls are sporting a 26-8 record going into the NCAA tournament. This is Kennesaw State’s first season with a winning record since entering Division I play in 2005.

In 2024, Kennesaw State is leaving the ASUN Conference for Conference USA.

Photo by AP / Joshua A. Bickel
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Mike Breen

Mike Breen covers Ohio’s budding sports betting industry for PlayOhio, focusing on online sportsbooks and the state’s responsible gambling initiatives. He has over two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture in Ohio.

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