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Xavier vs. Texas Tech NIT Championship Preview
Xavier will be playing in a college basketball championship game tonight, in a post-season tournament that takes place in March. That is an undeniable fact. So as a normal human being, you might think that they are playing in the Final Four? Wrong, it’s just the NIT, but if they win, banners hang forever.
The Musketeers will be going up against a Texas A&M squad that is playing with a lot of anger. Head coach, Buzz Williams, went on a nearly ten-minute tirade after the Aggies missed out on March Madness, calling the committee's decision-making into question. Since then, A&M has dominated most of the NIT, proving that he was right in his grievances. I thought Texas A&M should have been in the tournament, and so does the rest of their team, winning every NIT game by double digits and a combined 58 points. Not only that, but the Aggies have won 11 out of their last 12 games and are easily one of the hottest teams in the nation.
Luckily for Xavier, interim head coach Jonas Hayes finally has this team using its talent correctly. They faced Florida, Vanderbilt, and St Bonaventure, all teams that easily could have been in March Madness. Through their four wins, at least four Musketeers starter’s have scored double digits in all but one game, and at least one player has come off of the bench to reach double figures as well.
It’s honestly like watching a completely different team than the one we watched all season long. Especially someone like Zach Freemantle who didn’t live up to his lofty preseason expectations. Most of this Xavier roster will return next year, and winning the NIT could be a perfect building block for new Head Coach Sean Miller. The ex-Arizona head coach will be in attendance tonight and will get his first few looks at what his roster will look like next season. So far Miller has said all the right things and made all the right moves, so he could be in great shape for next season. If he could land at least one big-name transfer, he might be able to turn this ship around much quicker than most have anticipated.
But back to tonight's game. Xavier will come into Madison Square Garden as 4.5 point underdogs with a total of 137.5. Both of these teams have shown they can score and they’re both playing their best basketball of the year. Xavier’s already taken down two SEC teams on the road to the championship, so what’s one more?
I don’t think the Aggies have the size to deal with Xavier’s strong interior presence of Jack Nunge and Freemantle. Not only that, but the Muskeeter’s guards play a very physical style of basketball, so they won't be shocked by an aggressive A&M defense. Finally, as much as the loss of Paul Scruggs hurts, I think this team goes out and wins this whole thing for him. (They’ve also been playing pretty solid basketball without him.) Take the Musketeers and the points in tonight's matchup.
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