Time: 7 p.m. ET
Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Where to watch: ESPN
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: St. Bonaventure -1.5
BetMGM: St. Bonaventure -1.5
Caesars: St. Bonaventure -2
St. Bonaventure: 23-9
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St. Bonaventure - Xavier preview and analysis
St. Bonaventure: won 52-51 at Virginia in quarterfinals
Xavier: won 75-73 vs. Vanderbilt in quarterfinals
The NCAA Tournament isn't the only one with some crazy outcomes. Four teams will gather inside Madison Square Garden for the right to be crowned the Not In Tournament champion. I kid, sort of. I'll never get that distinction out of my head for as long as the NIT exists.
But we're in for a barnburner in the semifinals, both matchups really. But I'm really looking forward to the first matchup on Tuesday between the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and Xavier Musketeers because who doesn't like a matchup between Bonnies and D'Artagnan? Then again, one is a wolf and the other is a man wielding a sword, so who's really winning here?
The Bonnies are coming into this one with wins over Colorado, Oklahoma and Virginia to get to the final four of the NIT. To take down Virginia, a known star-studded defensive program for so many years, has to be worthy of praise itself. And the fact that the Bonnies have won three road games to get to this point, while playing solid at both ends of the floor is also remarkable.
Bonnies senior Kyle Lofton made two free throws with five seconds to go, followed by a block at the other end to pull off one of the bigger wins of this college basketball season. Unfortunately, they've all been trumped by Saint Peter's at this moment.
"It's something I prayed for. Everything comes full circle," Lofton said. "I prayed for it; 'if I'm in this position again, I'll hit them.' And it happened. I'm confident in myself. I'm not going to let one situation hurt me."
That confidence has surely translated into an unlikely run. St. Bonaventure has turned the corner the past five years under head coach Mark Schmidt with two NCAA Tournament appearances over the past five seasons.
"It was a rock fight. Usually, you get down by five to Virginia and that's like you're down by 15," Schmidt said. "I thought we guarded just as well as they did. We hit some big shots and Osun had a big block at the end. With Kyle, it's character. Character is what wins. He didn't hang his head after the Saint Louis game. He's a special kid and he was the guy we wanted on the line at the end. We're looking forward to representing the Atlantic 10 in Madison Square Garden."
But this matchup might be the toughest one yet for St. Bonaventure, taking on an Xavier team that has been caught in a dogfight of its own for the better part of this season. Caught in a battle of the Big East with some really good teams, the Musketeers are coming off a 75-73 win over Vanderbilt to reach the semis, but there is excitement brewing with the hiring of former Arizona coach Sean Miller.
Miller was actually the coach at Xavier from 2004-09 leading them to four NCAA Tournament appearances. To get him back after some time away has to put a jolt in the program.
"As much as I'd like to say I know what's exactly going to happen, I don't know what's gonna happen," said Miller in regard to what his roster will look like next season. "I think it's a matter of their families and themselves getting the chance to know me in a quick way.
"But I know this: if they haven't had a great experience at Xavier, I would be surprised. It's one of the gifts of this place.
With this changing to a neutral site, I think this would give some leeway to the underdog. However, this is technically a home-court advantage for the Bonnies and I'd expect a pro-Bonnies crowd to show up since they haven't had a game to show up this whole tournament. Even those who went to St. Bonnies Journalism School will show up, I bet. Give me the Bonnies. St. Bonaventure by 10
St. Bonaventure is 27-15 ATS since 1997 as a neutral-court favorite or pick.
St. Bonaventure is 1-7 ATS this season after playing three straight non-conference games.
St. Bonaventure is 8-2 ATS in the past three seasons off an upset win as an underdog.
Xavier is 105-88 ATS since 1997 as an underdog.
Xavier is 11-26 ATS the past three seasons after failing to cover two of the last three.
Projected starting lineup
PG: Kyle Lofton
SG: Dom Welch
SF: Jaren Holmes
PF: Jalen Adaway
C: Osun Osunniyi
PG: Nate Johnson
SG: Paul Scruggs
SF: Colby Jones
PF: Zach Freemantle
C: Jack Nunge
Points: Foster Loyer -- 16.1
Rebounds: Luka Brajkovic -- 7.1
Assists: Foster Loyer -- 3.3
Points: Jack Nunge -- 13.3
Rebounds: Colby Jones -- 7.4
Assists: Paul Scruggs -- 4.0
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