The No. 1-seeded Texas A&M Aggies and the No. 2-seed Xavier Musketeers will battle for the NIT title on Thursday night inside Madison Square Garden. The game, which will be aired on ESPN, is scheduled to tip off at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Here’s everything you need to know about each championship contender.
Xavier Musketeers: 22-13 (8-11 Big East)
KenPom rating: 53 Overall, 39 Offense, 79 Defense
NET ranking: 40, (5-8 vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Jack Nunge (13.4 ppg)
Key stat: Xavier had one of its best offensive performances of the season during the NIT semifinals, shooting 53.1 percent from the field versus St. Bonaventure.
The Musketeers are playing with a purpose in the NIT. Specifically, they are playing for Paul Scruggs, their senior point guard who tore his left ACL during the second round of this tournament and whose college basketball career is over. Despite missing the man who has played the most games for the Musketeers in program history (151), Xavier came back from nine points down with less than six minutes to play to top Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals, 75-73, before taking down the Bonnies.
Leading scorer Jack Nunge and sophomore guard Colby Jones have done a nice job of picking up the slack in Scruggs’ absence. Those two combined for 34 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and only one turnover against St. Bonaventure.
Xavier crashed the offensive glass hard in the semifinals. It came away with 14 offensive rebounds, leading to 15 points. They could exploit that area of the game versus Texas A&M which ranks 340th in defensive rebounding percentage, according to KenPom.
Texas A&M Aggies: 27-12 (9-9 SEC)
KenPom rating: 33 Overall, 68 Offense, 27 Defense
NET ranking: 43, (4-10 vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Quenton Jackson (14.6 ppg)
Key stat: The Aggies lead Division I with 393 steals.
One of the first four teams left out of the NCAA Tournament, the Aggies have remained in the NIT thanks in large part to their defense. They haven’t allowed more than 62 points in any of their four games thus far. They have won each of those games by double digits.
Not only is Jackson the leading scorer, he’s also first on the squad with 69 steals, among the top 20 most from any player in Division I. He was definitely the Aggies’ best player during their semifinal triumph over Washington State, 72-56. He put in 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, six assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Although they struggle to rebound the ball defensively, they are the complete opposite on the other end of the floor. Texas A&M ranks among the top 30 in offensive rebounds per game (12.8) and offensive rebounding percentage (33.6%)
Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Point spread: Texas A&M -4
Point total: 137.5
Moneyline: Texas A&M -190, Xavier +160
Best Bets for NIT Championship
Against The Spread Pick: Xavier +4
Point total pick: Under 137.5
Pick to Win: Texas A&M
The Musketeers don’t turn the ball over much, which is a strength they will need to continue against this defense. Nunge, Jones, Zach Freemantle and Nate Johnson have all proven to be capable scorers at times, which should enable Xavier to keep this close. However, X hasn’t played a team as good as the Aggies in more than a month. Jackson and double-double threat Harry Coleman III will lead a solid defensive effort for A&M en route to the first-ever postseason tournament championship in program history.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL/IN/MI/NJ/PA/WV/WY), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (CO/NH), 888-789-7777/visit ccpg.org/chat (CT), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), 1-877-770-STOP (7867) (LA), 877-8-HOPENY/text HOPENY (467369) (NY), visit OPGR.org (OR), call/text TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN), or 1-888-532-3500 (VA).21+ (18+ NH/WY). Physically present in AZ/CO/CT/IL/IN/IA/LA/MI/NH/NJ/NY/OR/PA/TN/VA/WV/WY only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.