By Andy Mac Williams, 3/23/2019

Xavier is considered a sizeable underdog in their NIT 2nd Round game against Texas in Austin Sunday afternoon(4PM EDT-ESPN). KenPom predicts 71-63 Longhorns. The Muskies have some momentum w/ 8 wins in their last 10 games. KP oversaw XU going 1-9 in those games so let's take his prognostication w/ a few grains of salt. Las Vegas has UT a 6 point favorite. Texas has been bi-polar this season. They're 17-16 after their NIT 1st Round 79-73 win over a veteran South Dakota State team last Tuesday in Texas. The Longhorns started 19-0 against the Jack Rabbits making a bevy of 3s. SDSU made it close in the second half. Texas is 17-16 overall, 13-6 at home, 8-10 in the BIG 12. They finished 6th-lost to Kansas 65-57 in the BIG 12 Tourney Quarterfinals and had lost 5 of 6 before beating South Dakota State.

Part of the reason for that late season UT swoon had to do w/ Senior star Kerwin"Snoop" Roach's 5 game suspension (15PPG-4 REBS-3 assists). Roach is back and has played off the bench the last 2 games. The BIG 12 is an unforgiving league. UT's schedule is rated 12th hardest in the country. They've beaten North Carolina, Purdue, Kansas State, Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State(all NCAA teams), but they've lost to Radford, Providence and Georgia.

The pressure is on 4th year coach Shaka Smart who's gone 67-66 in 4 Texas seasons after signing a mega-deal following his great success at VCU(Final 4 in 2011). Smart has lost twice in the NCAA 1st Round(last year in Nashville to Nevada in OT). He's modified his full court 40 minute "Havoc"style at Texas. It's not balls to the wall pressing action the entire game anymore.


The Horns can play w/ anybody. UT fans are disenchanted though. Only 1700 showed up in a 16,000 seat arena for their win over SDSU. Smart's job seems safe because they owe him a ton of money. He's recruited well. Roach is Senior leader and 1000 point plus scorer has been suspended 3 times. 6-11 BIG 12 Freshman to the Year Jaxson Hayes(Moeller High School-dad was a Bengal's assistant coach) hurt a knee vs Kansas at the BIG 12 Tourney(10PPG-5 REBS-71 blocked shots). Xavier was involved in recruiting him. Hayes is out.

Smart plays 9 guys starting 3 guards 6-2 Sophomore Matt Coleman(10PPG-4 assists)-6-3 Frosh Courtney Ramey(8PPG-3 assists) and 6-5 Sophomore Jase Febres(9PPG-best 3 point shooter). Roach may be back as a starter for Xavier?? 6-9 Senior Dylan Osetkowski scored a career high 26 vs South Dakota and had 18 vs Kansas in BIG 12 Tourney(11PPG-7REBS on season). He is a workhorse.The other BIG is 6-9 Sophomore Jericho Sims. Another 6-9 guy Kamaka Hepa gets PT also.

Texas scores 71PPG and gives up 67. UT was quick to settle for 3s vs SDSU. Their numbers indicate low turnovers and a decent assist to turnover ratio. If Texas is motivated, they can beat anybody. If Xavier uncorks their winning formula of the past 10 games, the Muskies can give UT a terrific battle. Sticky defensed is a staple(allowing less that 65PPG). Q, Scruggs and Naji are all big physical lock down defenders and they've been keeping the fouls way down.

Tyrique and Zach have done a strong job protecting the paint. Rebounding-a decent edge at the FT line and low XU turnovers(11 or Fewer) are key goals in any tough road venue. Naji was firing on all cylinders vs Toledo(20 points-21 rebounds-6 assists -3 steals). I don't think Texas has anybody to guard him.

Shaka Smart usually plays very little zone. The 3 man Muskie bench(Castlin-Welage and Hardin) handled their roles well against Toledo. X has some extra incentive. If they win at Texas, they host an NIT Quarterfinal game Wednesday evening at Cintas against the Colorado-Norfolk State winner. They play in Boulder Monday (9PM EDT-ESPN).

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