Scouting NIT Tournament Semifinals: St. Bonaventure vs. X
Andy Mac Williams,
Scouting NIT Semi-Final-Xavier(21-13) vs St. Bonaventure (23-9)(Atlantic 10)-Tuesday Match 29th(7 PM EDT-ESPN) at Madison Square Garden. Ken Pom picks XU 74-72. Muskies are on their revenge tour after losing 20 days ago at MSG to Butler(89-82 in OT) 1st Round of BIG EAST Tourney. X also lost early in BET to DePaul(71-67 in 2020) and Butler(70-69 OT in 2021) in NYC. XU interim head coach Jonas Hayes says Muskie TEAM 100 is more than ready:" We're in a very good space.We're committed to win a championship. Getting back to New York was a goal of ours from the outset. It's a great opportunity to get a sour, sour, sour taste out of our mouths."
Here's Jonas on the Bonnies:
"They play 6 or 7 guys and like to drive it downhill. We have to contain their drives and do a good job at the end-when we stop them. They are a very good team and we're prepared for a war."
SBU has navigated a hard road to MSG w/ 3 NIT road wins( at Colorado-PAC 12, at Oklahoma-Big 12 and at Virginia-AAC). Bonnies edged Sooners 70-68 in Norman and rallied BIG TIME to upset UVA in Charlottesville 52-51. They trailed Virginia 50-45 w/ 2 minutes to play. UVA had the final possession and SBU blocked a shot and then defended an out of bounds play near the buzzer.
St Bonnies was fated as high as #14 AP early after winning the Charleston Classic beating Boise State, Clemson and Marquette(7-54). They were 8-1 when 4 year starting PG went down vs Virginia Tech. Bonnies lost that then lost 3 weeks to a COVID pause.
They struggled early in A-10 play but recovered to post a 12-5 conference record finishing behind Davidson, Dayton and VCU. SBU lost 57-56 to St Louis in A-10 Tourney Quarters- missing 2 FTs and a lay-up at the end. The players voted to keep playing in the NIT after what started out as a high probability NCAA season.
Ex-XU assistant coach Mark Schmidt (1994-2001 under Skip Prosser) has a veteran team(3rd oldest in NCAA D-1) w/ 5 workhorse 4 season Senior starters. All 5 average over 30 minutes/game. 3 play 38 minutes plus. SBU is 358th and dead last NCAA D-1 in minutes by the bench(as in subs) at 9% of minutes played.
They're balanced in scoring-connected on defense w/ low turnovers(10/game) and low fouls. SBU is healthy and they are hot(won 11 of 13) including those 3 NIT road victories.
PG(#0) is 6-3 Kyle Lofton who hit winning FTS at UVA (5+ assists-2+ steals). 2G (#5) is 6-4 Jaren Holmes (13.4PPG-3 level scorer). Bookend Forwards(#1 Dominick Welch)(12PPG-6 Rebs-84 made "3s") and Jalen Adaway(#33) (16PPG- best shooter).
The BIG(#21) Osun Osunniyi (6-10, 220) is a great shot blocker and rim protector (11PPG-8 Rebs-3 Blocks). SBU is 75% FTs. They score 2 by 2 mostly and play primarily half court w/ low reliance on 3 point shooting.
Bonnies are used to closing out close games. XU and SBU last played in March A-10 Tourney Championship Game at Atlantic City. St Bonnies won it 67-56 and grabbed NCAA automatic bid. X went NCAA at large. SBU's star was Andrew Nicholson who went on to play in NBA.
Xavier comes in w/ 3 straight NIT home wins over Cleveland St, Florida and Vanderbilt. Muskies have shared the ball well w/ 5 players scoring in double figures in all 3 games.
X has thrived playing 4 small w/ 3 guards-Colby Jones at the "4" and just one BIG. Both Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle have prospered w/ the "5" job share(averaging 24.3PPG and 13.3 Rebs between them).
Frosh Cesare Edwards has played some quality minutes on the block also. Dwon Odom has seen his PG time skyrocket due to Paul Scruggs' injury. Nate Johnson and Adam Kunkel are scoring 11PPG each. Colby is blossoming in every category(12,3PPG-6 Rebs-5 assists-2 steals-sticky defense-master of the 50-50 ball-34 minutes/game).
The 75-73 win over Vandy was played at a high energy hig execution level IMHO. Muskies have won 4 o 5 and are 13-1 in games outside the BIG EAST(only loss to Iowa State in Brooklyn w/ half the XU roster sick w/ stomach flu.
Jonas Hayes and staff deserve kudos for re-energizing the troops after Travis Steele's exit. The players deserve plaudits for listening to the message, accepting the situation and making the most of the opportunity.
The other NIT Semi pits Washington State (PAC 12) vs Texas A&M (SEC) Tuesday (9:30 PM-ESPN2). The winners play for NIT Title Thursday.