Scouting NIT Tournament Championship: Texas A&M vs. Xavier
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier TEAM 100 may have its hands full vs Texas A&M Thursday night in NIT Championship Game at Madison Square Garden. The SEC Aggies(27-12) felt slighted when overlooked by NCAA Selection Committee. They've played aggressive dominant basketball in NIT-beating Alcorn State,Oregon Wake Forest and Washington State(Tuesday at MSG 72-56) by an average of 15PPG while forcing 17 turnovers/win and allowing a stingy 57PPG. Coach Buzz Williams(Marquette, Virginia Tech,last 3 seasons at Texas A&M) has his Aggies geeked and attacking. A&M is 3rd NCAA in steals-7th in turnovers forced-27th in defensive efficiency.
They pounded Washington State-leading by as many as 27-owning the paint(scoring 30 2 point FGs). Aggies won in a romp despite shooting 2-14 from "3" and 6-13 in FTs. This team scores 2 by 2-around the rim and in transition.
Williams plays 12 guys 11 minutes or more. Aggies top player is(#3) Senior G Quentin Jackson(18 points vs WSU-14.6PPG). Duke transfer(#33) 6-8, 243 Henry Coleman dominated inside vs WSU(16 points on dunks and stickbacks). Prize Frosh 6-4 Manny Obaseki has emerged in NIT(14 points WSU). The rest of the cast is athletic and high energy and basically interchangeable.
A&M has won 12 of the last 14.They lost to Tennessee in the SEC Tourney Final after beating Florida, Auburn and Alabama back to back to back in that event. Ken Pom picks Texas A&M over Xavier 75-70.
Muskies may disagree. X has won 5 of 6 including 4 straight NIT "Ws". Xavier has shared the ball well(18 assists/ game w/ 5 players scoring 10 points or more in each NIT victory).
BIGS Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle have thrived splitting minutes at Center-scoring efficiently-rebounding well and defending the rim. Dwon Odom has taken over at PG for injured Paul Scruggs and run the offense almost flawlessly along w/ delivering steady pressure to the bad guy's PG.
Colby Jones has been brilliant(34 minutes/game-13PPG-7 Rebounds-4 assists- pretty much error free ball handling and a fearless heady floor game). Wings Adam Kunkel and Nate Johnson have hit BIG shots and defended w/ gusto.
In the wake of Travis Steele's departure, the coaches have rallied and motivated the troops to play their best basketball. An NIT would exorcise the demons of a trying BIG EAST season blemished by OT losses and missed FTs. X is 14-1 in games outside the BIG EAST vs a tough non-conference schedule.
Win #15 vs Texas A&M earns TEAM 100 a banner for the Cintas rafters-and a great launching pad for success under returning head coach Sean Miller who's watching this NIT run w/ great interest.
XU-Texas A&M may be the final NIT game ever at MSG dating back to 1938 and the OLD GARDEN. NIT Final Four will be staged probably in Las Vegas next March.