Xavier vs. Texas A&M Odds & Picks: Betting Preview for Thursday’s NIT Final
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyrece Radford (Texas A&M)
- Xavier and Texas A&M square off in the NIT Final from Madison Square Garden.
- The Musketeers have had a lot of luck to get to this point while the Aggies have blown through their competition.
- Kyle Remillard previews the game and offers up his best bet.
Xavier vs. Texas A&M Odds
-110o / -110u
|Texas A&M Odds|
-110o / -110u
The NCAA Final Four is set to begin on Saturday in New Orleans. Before that, one program will already be crowned as champions, as Xavier takes on Texas A&M in the NIT title game at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
Texas A&M went on a magical run through the SEC Tournament that was highlighted by victories over Florida, Auburn and Arkansas. Despite that run — and the Aggies’ 20-11 record — the NCAA Selection Committee ultimately decided it wasn’t enough for a ticket to the Big Dance.
That decision has helped Buzz Williams’ program play with a chip on its shoulder throughout the NIT. Texas A&M has won all four of its postseason games — over Alcorn State, Oregon, Wake Forest and Washington State — by double figures.
Now the Aggies match up against an Xavier squad that fumbled away its NCAA Tournament bid in the final two months of the season. The Musketeers owned a 11-2 record on Christmas before self-imploding, winning just six of their final 17 Big East matchups.
Though Xavier has won all four of its games in the NIT, the group has continued to struggle against the spread. Much of that is due to the absence of fifth-year senior leader Paul Scruggs, who is currently injured.
The Musketeers also fired head coach Travis Steele after their first-round game against Cleveland State.
Xavier is still shorthanded, and its improbable tournament run may come to an end against the red-hot Texas A&M Aggies.
Xavier has done exactly what you’re supposed to do in tournament play: survive and advance.
Cleveland State took Xavier down to the wire as double-digit underdogs in the opening round. The Musketeers then trailed by nine points with six minutes to go at home against Vanderbilt. On Tuesday night, Xavier kept its foot on the gas pedal offensively to survive a second-half surge from St. Bonaventure.
The program fired Steele after the first round of the NIT. The Musketeers have since brought back Sean Miller to lead the program, but it will be interim head coach Jonas Hayes finishing out the year on the sideline.
Hayes has mainly utilized a six-man rotation in his three games as head coach, which has featured five players scoring in double figures in each matchup.
Offensively, the group focuses on attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line for a good reason. The program has connected on just 32% of its 3-point attempts on the season, ranking 257th in the country. During the postseason, Xavier has hit just 27-of-98 (28%) from deep.
For that reason, Hayes will likely have his squad attacking the hoop against a Texas A&M defense that fouls at a rate of 261st in the country.
Xavier will again be without Scruggs, who is the team’s highest usage player on the offensive end. He contributed a dozen points per game and had 26% of the team’s total assists this season.
The Musketeers will continue to lean on seven-foot center Jack Nunge while looking for Nate Johnson and Adam Kunkel to get hot from outside.
Williams’ group opened the season with a 15-2 record and had its eyes on the NCAA Tournament. The program then collapsed, losing nine of 10 SEC matchups, which dropped its record to 16-11.
But the group has bounced back to its early-season form since, winning 11 of its last 12 games. More importantly for bettors, the Aggies have covered the spread in 10 of those 12 matchups.
Texas A&M’s success starts on the defense end of the floor, where the group ranks 27th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Over the last 10 games, that number has improved to sixth in the nation, according to BartTorvik.
The relentless pressure defense has forced turnovers at the eighth-highest rate in the country, which jump starts the offense into transition opportunities. Texas A&M gets shot attempts in transition at a top-50 clip.
The Aggies are a deep program that ranks 23rd in the nation in bench minutes, per KenPom. When 11 players are averaging double-digit minutes per game, that constantly allows fresh bodies to stay on the floor.
That depth has led to a well-balanced scoring attack, which is led by fifth-year senior Quenton Jackson. The guard is putting up 15 points per game while hitting 35% from deep this season.
Offensively, the Aggies also focus on attacking the rim, as only 34% of their shot attempts come from beyond the arc. The group ranks among the top-50 in the country in free throw rate and snatching offensive boards.
The Aggies started out slow against Washington State, hitting just 3-of-21 from the field before rallying to shoot 64% for the remainder of the game. The offense scored more points in the paint (58) than Wazzou scored in the entire game (54).
Xavier vs. Texas A&M Betting Pick
These two programs ended the season heading in opposite directions. Xavier choked away its Big East Tournament “run” late in its first-round matchup with Butler. Texas A&M made it to the SEC Tournament title game before running out of gas against Tennessee.
The Aggies have carried that momentum into the NIT, dismantling all four of their opponents thus far. Meanwhile, Xavier has battled in all four outings to make it to the championship game.
This will be the matchup that the injury to Scruggs finally catches up to the Musketeers. The short-handed group will likely utilize a six-man rotation for much of the game. The Texas A&M program is 12 deep and will continue with its relentless pressure for all 40 minutes.
Hayes will attempt to have Xavier slow down the pace of the game and limit turnovers to prevent the Aggies’ transition attack. Without Scruggs being the floor general, the Musketeers have coughed the ball up a dozen times per night this postseason.
Texas A&M has been a cash cow for bettors, covering the spread in 10 of its last 12 matchups. Xavier, on the other hand, has bankrupt bettors, going just 6-15 against the spread over the last two months.
I’m backing Williams and the Texas A&M Aggies to continue to stay hot and stick it to the committee with an NIT title in impressive fashion.
Pick: Texas A&M -4.5 (Play to -5.5)
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