Featured Video from Scott Reichel
Day 2 of the NIT comes to us on Wednesday night, and among the big games of the festivities comes the matchup between the Toledo Rockets and the Xavier Musketeers at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, OH.
The Toledo Rockets had a fantastic campaign and could have that snubbed feeling about them after taking in 25 wins with only 7 losses for head coach Tod Kowalczyk, who now has earned four 20-win seasons from his 9 years with the Rockets.
Xavier comes into their home outing that will tip-off at 7 p.m. ET, favored by 7 points to advance to the next round in their bracket, as these two appear as the 3 and 6 seeds in the 2nd bracket, with the winner going on to face the victor of the South Dakota State / Texas clash that will be played on Tuesday night in Texas.
With an 18 – 15 record, Xavier didn’t fare all that well under 1st-year coach Travis Steele. Steele simply couldn’t follow up the results of former coach Chris Mack, who left Steele with a 26 – 9 team that made their 5th straight NCAA Tourney appearance a year ago.
Rockets Looking For The Road Upset In Cincy
The Rockets know a thing or two about going on the road and getting some results, as Toledo managed to go 8 – 4 in true road games while navigating a 3 – 1 neutral site record.
The Rockets took that 3 – 0 neutral site record into their MAC Tournament and that’s where their lone loss comes from after taking an 80 – 76 loss to Northern Illinois in the opening round as -6.5-point favorites, in fact.
Toledo was riding a 10 – 2 end to the regular season into their conference tourney, so the opening round loss is certainly something the committees might have looked at determining if they were an NCAA or NIT contender. Obviously, since we’re sitting here reading a preview for Toledo in the NIT, we know how that went, so it’s onward to try and make some noise in the NIT.
Can they pull off an upset over Xavier as road dogs to open their NIT showing?
Well, head coach Tod Kowalczyk hopes so, although their reaction when they found out where they landed sure doesn’t seem all that intense, as posted from their Twitter feed..
NIT Selection Show reaction!
Toledo Rockets 🚀 vs Xavier Musketeers ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/8khJGNMHtz
— Toledo M Basketball (@ToledoMBB) March 18, 2019
So, I mean, yeah the NIT sure isn’t going to get anyone to jump out of their seat I guess, so that’s to be expected, but a post-season is a post-season, and the Rockets will be loose and playing some kind of basketball late in March, be it the NIT.
Toledo’s senior guard Jaelen Sanford, no relation to Fred Sanford, of course, led the squad in scoring averaging 15.3 PPG in his final regular season, as he dished out 3.2 assists and shot 83.1% from the free throw line.
Another senior, Nate Navigato, used his 6-8, 225 frame to take in 12.6 PPG, although those 3.5 boards a night sure don’t tell us he is around the glass enough for a big man up front. Navigato hasn’t grabbed more than 6 rebounds in a game since January ended, and he only landed a single board in the final game of the year against EMU? I think that deserves a ‘Come On Man’, because if he doesn’t take in at least 7 or more boards against Xavier on the road, and coach Kowalczyk doesn’t have his team chasing rebounds? Uh, enjoy the trip back to Toledo, because 4 of the 5 Musketeers starters took in no less than 5 boards in their final game against Nova in the conference tourney.
Luckily, the Rockets do rank 24th in the country in offensive rebounding, although they sit back at 141st on the defensive glass, because Willie Jackson and Luke Knapke can eat up rebounds. Jackson leads the squad taking in just under 9 boards a contest, while 6-11 junior Knapke brings in 6.6 per night, although Luke only put ONE double-double together this entire season. 1? Can I hit my man with a ‘Come On Man’ too? He also only put up 3 games all season with double-digit rebounds, so I think he deserves it a little being 6-11 in the MAC!
I just did, so we will see what this team is worth tonight in Cincinnati against the Musketeers, won’t we?!
Musketeers Favored By A Touchdown At Home To Start NIT Run
The line setters have issued the Musketeers as 7-point favorites to advance and face the winner from the S.D State / Texas affair, and a 12 – 5 home record has Xavier looking for win #13 at the Cintas Center this year.
Travis Steele finally took the reigns to start his head coaching career after being a long-time assistant here at Xavier dating back to 2008, when Sean Miller was wrapping up his career with the Musketeers making a run to the Elite-8 that season.
— Xavier Basketball (@XavierMBB) March 19, 2019
When Xavier joined the Big East Conference in 2013, Chris Mack was at the helm and all he did was win at least 21 games in all 5 years in the conference, so some will obviously see the NIT as a semi-disappointment, albeit a post-season appearance nonetheless.
The less might actually work better, although I did see one ESPN shmuck call for Xavier to take this year’s NIT title somewhere, and I laughed wondering if they’ll even get past Toledo?
The Rockets won 26 games this year as I pointed out, and they aren’t about to see an 18 – 15 Musketeer team as intimidating, despite having all their major pieces finally in place.
I don’t know WTF the dude was talking about in that ESPN piece saying that Steele is getting this guy back and that guy back and he has a healthy squad? Uh, hey man, Xavier has no depth to speak of, and no one got hurt this year that mattered or missed any significant time in the least, unless the handful of games that Elias Harden missed made that much of a difference? Yeah sure, Harden and his 2.7 PPG and 59% free throw shooting sure was missed baby! LOL .. Hey, another one coming. Come On Man!
Xavier played 8 guys all year and Naji Marshall led the way this season averaging 14.4 PPG while snatching 6.7 boards a contest while handing out 3.4 assists as well.
Paul Scruggs put up 12.6 PPG for his sophomore campaign, and Quentin Goodwin (10.9) leads a trio of players averaged double-digits this season as well. Tyrique Jones (10.9) and Zach Hankins (10.7) complete that threesome and expect Ryan Welage to be the first guy called off the bench, as he usually does and has all season.
Xavier only managed to score 71.9 PPG this season which has them ranked all the way back at 191st in the nation, while their 33.3% from distance ranks them 235th in the land from behind the arc.
• Musketeers are 0-3-1 ATS in their last 4 non-conference games.
• Over is 3-1-1 in Musketeers last 5 overall.
• Over is 4-1 in Musketeers last 5 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
• Rockets are 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 road games.
• Rockets are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
• Rockets are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I got the Rockets to cover the touchdown people, as I see this as a game that will be high-scoring, and back-and-forth throughout.
Expect a 77 – 75 tight one at the Cintas Center for these two tonight, with the dog and the over coming your way.
Prediction: Toledo +7
Full-Game Total Pick
As suggested above, this total is set too low, and they will each find their way into the 70s as this total gets toppled to cash out ticket on the Over.
Prediction: Over 143