NIT Championship Game
Xavier vs Texas A&M
There is no better way to deal with being left out of the March Madness bracket than refocusing your energy on securing a different championship.
Xavier, in a position to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament until a late-season swoon, and SEC tournament finalist Texas A&M could easily have been among the 68 teams vying for the NCAA Division I title.
The Musketeers and Aggies each ripped off four wins to advance to Thursday’s National Invitation Tournament final.
The teams last met in 1965 and Xavier emerged with the 98-86 victory.
The game will be played on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It is the end of an era as the NIT will find a new home after decades of being played at MSG.
Here’s a look at some keys to the title game in the NIT bracket and betting information for the matchup.
Xavier vs Texas A&M Game information
Team records: Xavier 22-13; Texas A&M 27-12
Coaches: Xavier – Sean Miller; Texas A&M – Buzz Williams
Road to final: Xavier – defeated Cleveland State 72-68, defeated Florida 72-56, defeated Vanderbilt 75-73, defeated St. Bonaventure 84-77. Texas A&M – defeated Alcorn State 74-62, defeated Oregon 75-60, defeated Wake Forest 67-52, defeated Washington State 72-56.
When Xavier is on Offense
Jack Nunge, a 7-foot junior, is averaging seven field goal attempts per game in the tournament but is shooting 71 percent from the field. He has only played more than 20 minutes once in the four National Invitation Tournament games but he has scored in double figures in all four games. Second-leading scorer Paul Scruggs is out with a knee injury suffered in the second-round win over Florida.
Six players accounted for 155 of the 159 points in the last two games, so other than Zach Freemantle, don’t be looking for much production off the bench.
The perimeter shots haven’t been falling as the Musketeers are shooting just 29 percent on 3-pointers in the tournament, but Xavier has been able to score inside.
When Texas A&M is on Offense
Senior Quenton Jackson is averaging 14.3 points in the NIT. He isn’t having much success from 3-point range, but is connecting on 65 percent of his shots inside the 3-point line during the National Invitation Tournament.
It has been offense by committee with three different players either leading the team in scoring or being tied for the team lead in the four NIT games.
Texas A&M ranks fourth nationally with more than 10 steals per game. The Aggies love to crash the boards and have 51 offensive rebounds in the tournament, but they have allowed 54 to the opponents.
It is not unusual for 10 or 11 Aggies to get into the scoring column, so if this becomes a game with lots of whistles, it could play to Texas A&M’s favor.
Xavier vs Texas A&M: Three Keys to the Game
1. Security is the top priority: Texas A&M thrives in turning defense into offense, especially when it comes to jumping into the passing lane. However, Xavier has turned the ball over just 10 times in each of the last two games. The Musketeers’ best chance is to make the Aggies get their points in the half-court offense.
2. Playing with the lead: Texas A&M has been very comfortable in the tournament in large part because the Aggies have controlled the game. In the last three contests, Texas A&M has trailed for less than three minutes and not at all in the second half. Xavier rallied from a 10-point deficit against Vanderbilt but how will Texas A&M react if suddenly forced to play catch up
3. Strength in numbers: Texas A&M’s reserves have played an average of 67 minutes per game in the NIT while the Xavier non-starters not named Zach Freemantle have been on the court for a total of 32 minutes over the last two games so if this becomes a battle of manpower, give the edge to Texas A&M. The Aggies’ depth could be even more impressive if not for the absence of Marcus Williams who hasn’t played since February 19.
Xavier vs Texas A&M Betting Numbers to Know
Texas A&M has won its last six games when listed as the favorite, which is the case for Thursday’s game. They are 5-1 against the college basketball spreads in the last six games as a favorite.
Xavier snapped a five-game losing streak as the underdog with its win over St. Bonaventure.
Xavier has only covered in three of its last 11 games. Texas A&M has covered in 10 of its last 12 games.
Nine of the last 13 Xavier games have gone over the total while the last five Texas A&M games went under the total.