St. Bonaventure vs. Xavier Odds & Picks: Betting Preview for Tuesday’s First NIT Semifinal

St. Bonaventure vs. Xavier Odds & Picks: Betting Preview for Tuesday’s First NIT Semifinal article feature image

Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images. Pictured: Zach Freemantle (Xavier)

  • St. Bonaventure takes on Xavier at Madison Square Garden for the first NIT semifinal.
  • The Bonnies have five veterans in their starting lineup while the Muskeeters are playing under an interim head coach.
  • Here's how Anthony Dabbundo is betting this game.

St. Bonaventure vs. Xavier Odds

Tuesday, March 29
7 p.m. ET
St. Bonaventure Odds
-110o / -110u
Xavier Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Tuesday night's NIT semifinals may technically be a neutral court in Madison Square Garden, but Olean, New York is just a five hour drive from Manhattan.

St. Bonaventure fans travel as well as any small school in the country, so the Bonnies might have some home court advantage on Tuesday against Xavier.

St. Bonaventure is a small 1.5-point favorite against the Musketeers, who recently fired head coach Travis Steele after the first round of the NIT.

The Musketeers brought Sean Miller back in to lead the program after he left for Arizona in 2009. Despite Miller's hire, interim coach Jonas Hayes is finishing the season for the Musketeers.

Xavier had a stellar non-conference campaign that was followed by an end-of-season collapse that kept it out of the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers have won some games in the NIT, but still have covered the spread in just one of their three victories.

And now, they don't have fifth-year senior leader Paul Scruggs.

The Musketeers snuck past both Cleveland State and Vanderbilt — failing to cover both games — and beat up on Florida, which also had an interim coach.

St. Bonaventure dealt with COVID-19 and a lack of depth the entire season. That cost the Bonnies dearly in January and February.

Even though they started to play better at the end of the year when healthy, it was too little, too late to make the NCAA Tournament, especially after a crushing, last-second loss in the A-10 quarterfinals.

After underachieving seasons for these two programs, the Bonnies' depth will seriously be tested as Xavier loves to get to the free throw line and prevents teams from getting to the rim against it.

St. Bonaventure Bonnies

If you haven't watched the Bonnies this year, they are a pretty easy scout because they only play six players. They're one of the oldest and most experienced teams in the country, but Mark Schmidt's bench has actually gotten shorter this season.

The backcourt is Jaren Holmes and Kyle Lofton, and the wing/frontcourt positions are mastered by Dominick Welch and Jalen Adaway.

Osun Osunniyi is the primary center and shot blocker, and he's spelled occasionally by Abdoul Karim Coulibaly when he needs a rest.

That's it. Six guys, which equals the shortest bench usage in the nation.

The Bonnies are anchored by Osunniyi defensively, and he's a major reason they're excellent at guarding the rim. They're 53rd nationally in defensive finishing at the rim, per ShotQuality, and he's the leading shot blocker in program history.

The Bonnies are top-10 in block rate and do an excellent job of altering shots and preventing drives to the rim.

They rank 60th on defense in shots attacking the rim, and force teams to beat them from the perimeter.

As you'd expect, the defense does struggle to guard the perimeter. The Bonnies allow a ton of 3s and if you can hit from the perimeter, the defense really struggles.

I'm not sure that will be punished in this matchup with Xavier, though, given that the Musketeers are 261st in 3-point percentage.

This game is also a battle of contrasting styles, with Bonnies playing more in the half-court and Xavier looking to run.

But I'm not sure the Bonnies can afford to go up-tempo with the Musketeers given their lack of bench options. The Bonnies will want to limit possessions — and thus limit fouls — and force Xavier to execute in the half-court, where the Musketeers are considerably less efficient offensively.

St. Bonaventure doesn't really turn the ball over much and does have very experienced ball handlers, so that should enable the defense to get back and limit transition chances for Xavier.

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Xavier Musketeers

Xavier has covered the spread in four of its last 14 games, and its straight up record in those games isn't much better at 5-9.

The Musketeers choked away their NCAA Tournament chances to Butler in the first round of the Big East Tournament, and they've ridden their luck a bit in the NIT to get to this point.

The Musketeers trailed by nine with six minutes to go in their quarterfinal matchup at home against Vanderbilt.

Despite playing all three games at the Cintas Center, Xavier failed to cover in two of them and needed some clutch, late-game shotmaking to beat Cleveland State and Vandy.

From a matchup standpoint, Xavier loves to get to the rim and get to the free throw line as a result. It ranks 110th in frequency attacking the rim and 44th in free throw rate on offense, per ShotQuality and KenPom.

It's very hard to get easy looks against the Bonnies at the rim, but foul trouble could be a major issue for them here if Xavier can successfully get hacked.

The Musketeers will again be without Scruggs, who's their highest usage offensive player and creator. He's also excellent at getting to the free throw line and plays a very physical style. Scruggs is a fifth-year senior who tore his ACL in the win against Florida.

St. Bonaventure vs. Xavier Betting Pick

Both offenses love to get to the rim, but both defenses are strongest at protecting the rim. That sets up for both offenses — which aren't typically good at shooting from the perimeter — being forced to make a lot from deep to produce points.

Given that it's a tournament semifinal and a neutral court, it's fair to expect some nerves to impact the perimeter shooting.

The Bonnies also won't be able to get into a transition battle in this game without the risk of losing half of their team to foul trouble. For that reason, I expect Bonnies to pack the paint defensively and force Xavier to beat them from the perimeter and in the half-court.

Xavier's defense has fallen off a bit, but the Musketeers still guard the half-court, pick-and-roll and the rim at a well above-average rate, per ShotQuality.

The market seems to be showing some real respect to Xavier's poor recent form and some potential home court bonus for the Bonnies. The number is about right for me with the spread, but I do think the total is inflated — given I project a slower pace and lower efficiency.

I'm splitting my bet on the first half under and the full game under as a result.

Pick: First half under 65.5 | Full game under 140

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Nick Sterling
Jul 21, 2024 UTC