No. 25 Xavier and Virginia Tech will both be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season when they square off in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday night. The Musketeers came up short against Iowa State in their semifinal, while Virginia Tech lost to No. 9 Memphis in the other semifinal.
Xavier led by veteran guardsXavier opened the season with four consecutive games, including an upset win over then-No. 19 Ohio State. The Musketeers were unable to build on that momentum to open this event, losing to Iowa State by 12 points on Wednesday. They led by one point at halftime, but the Cyclones took over in the second half. Xavier shot just 14.3% from beyond the arc and it turned the ball over 17 times. The Musketeers are No. 36 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings.
They are one of the tallest teams in college basketball, ranked No. 31 in average height. Xavier has used that height to its advantage in the paint, knocking down 55.2% of its 2-pointers. However, the Musketeers are shooting just 27.3% from beyond the arc. Guard Paul Scruggs leads the team with 13.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Forward Jack Nunge and guard Colby Jones are both averaging 12.6 points per contest. Guard Adam Kunkel is also in double figures, adding 11.3 points. He is questionable for this game with an illness.
Hokies falter to Memphis in latter stagesVirginia Tech opened the season with five consecutive wins, but it was a large favorite in all five outings. The Hokies failed to build on their momentum as well, losing to ninth-ranked Memphis on Wednesday in a 69-61 final. They took a one-point lead with less than five minutes to play, but Memphis answered with the final run of the night. Virginia Tech’s offense ranks No. 29 in adjusted efficiency and is shooting 40.9% from beyond the arc. The Hokies will be at a height disadvantage on Friday night.
They have slightly more experience than Xavier, which has helped with the turnover rate early in the season. Virginia Tech has not grabbed many offensive rebounds so far. Forward Keve Aluma leads the team with 12.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Guard Nahiem Alleyne is the only other player in double figures, averaging 12.3 points. Veteran guard Storm Murphy is scoring 9.8 points and is shooting 40.0% from beyond the arc. He will be facing a Xavier defense that is No. 47 in adjusted efficiency.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
These are very even teams, but Virginia Tech has a few small advantages in this game. The Hokies are currently the top-ranked team in the country in defensive 3-point shooting percentage. They have a little more balance than Xavier as well and are No. 8 in the opponent’s effective field goal percentage. Virginia Tech also has more experience and a more talented starting five, which will be an advantage on Friday night.
Full-Game Total Pick
This is going to be a fast-paced game, especially with both teams coming off frustrating losses. I expect them to both be getting out in transition and trying to get off to a hot start after the way the semifinals unfolded. Xavier is inside the top 100 in average possession length, so it loves to push the pace when it has the opportunity. Virginia Tech is drilling its 3-pointers this season, knocking down 40.9% of its attempts from beyond the arc. I expect this to be a high-scoring game at the Barclays Center.