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Over in the NIT, we have St. Bonaventure vs. Xavier. Ben Rajavuori shares his best bet for this game.
ANALYSIS

St. Bonaventure vs. Xavier Best Bet: Can St. Bonaventure Cover the Short Spread?

The Final Four doesn’t start until Saturday, but luckily we have the NIT to hold us over until then. The NIT semifinals kick off tonight from Madison Square Garden in New York and feature four teams that didn’t miss the big dance by much.

The first game of the night features St. Bonaventure, who is happy to finally get a neutral-site game, and Xavier, who has made it to the semifinals despite losing their starting point guard, Paul Scruggs, to a torn ACL. The last time these two teams met was back in 2013 when Xavier took a close win with a final score of 66-64. This time around, Xavier is getting a point as they sit around +1 as of now. Can Xavier keep their streak going without Scruggs, or will St. Bonaventure pull off another upset?

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St. Bonaventure vs. Xavier Prediction

Xavier had a so-so season this year. They started 10-1 on the year with a few impressive quad-one wins but went just 8-11 in conference play and lost to Butler in the first round of the conference tournament. Xavier's biggest playmakers are point guard Paul Scruggs and center Jack Nunge.

Unfortunately, Xavier will be without the former after suffering a torn ACL in the game against Florida. Xavier went on to win the quarterfinal against Vanderbilt anyway behind a 60% shooting effort inside the arc, which is 10% above their season average. It won't be easy to replicate this performance as St. Bonaventure is a solid defensive team, and this game will also not be a home game for Xavier like the first three rounds.

In fact, this game will be played closer to St. Bonaventure, and Xavier will not have the luxury of a loud home crowd in this one, which adds to the loss of Scruggs here. Xavier lives in the paint and shoots 66% on near-proximity shots, looking to Nunge down low, especially in a game without Scruggs. This could spell a tough matchup against St. Bonaventure center Osun Osunniyi, a senior who is 12th in the country in shot-block rate on defense. Xavier may need to rely more on scoring from the perimeter tonight, which isn't their specialty.

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St. Bonaventure didn't have a much better season than Xavier, but they trended in the opposite direction and have a ton of momentum coming into tonight's contest. The Bonnies started the season 12-7 and 4-4 in conference play but finished the regular season at 20-8 and 12-5 in conference play (8-1 over their final nine regular-season games).

The Bonnies lost a heartbreaker to end their NCAA Tournament hopes when they lost 56-57 to Saint Louis in the first round of the Atlantic 10 conference tournament after Kyle Lofton missed both free throws with one second left to lose the game. However, the Bonnies' resume was good enough to land them a spot in the NIT, and they have not wasted the opportunity, winning three straight as road dogs in all three. This has come behind solid defensive efforts, as they have yet to allow over 68 points in the tournament. Part of this solid defense is built around their experience.

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St. Bonaventure is one of the most experienced teams in the country. The Bonnies feature an entire starting five of seniors, which helps with their turnovers, nerves, and defense as a unit. This experience looms large in a tournament setting and influences my decision to take the Bonnies in this spot tonight.

The Bonnies have all the momentum coming into this one. Sure, both teams have won three straight to get here, but the Bonnies had to play all three on the road while Xavier will be traveling for the first time in the tournament. Also, the Bonnies had to play the more challenging teams throughout the course of the tournament. The Bonnies have been more reliable on the road this year than Xavier, and it's hard to say the loss of Scruggs won't affect Xavier in the frontcourt tonight.

The Musketeers will need to rely on their perimeter shooters Nate Johnson and Adam Kunkel in this one, who have converted on nine of 38 three-point attempts in this tournament. The Bonnies' experience and defense should be enough to shut down the Xavier offense away from their home court and banged up. Take the slight favorites in this matchup and for the Bonnies to stay hot.

St. Bonaventure vs. Xavier Pick

Article Author

NCAABBoxing/MMAMLBNHL

Ben Rajavuori is a handicapper out of Minneapolis, MN. He has been creating sports content for almost four years now and is an expert in all things NFL, MLB, NBA, UFC, and NCAAB. Ben thrives on diving deep into statistics to find the best angle on every bet. You can follow him on Twitter @WeBeatTheSpread.

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