The 2013 NIT gets started on Tuesday night as the thirty two team field battles for one of the four coveted spots in New York for the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden. Some teams in the field are disappointed to have missed berths in the tournament that really matters, while others are just happy to be here, competing in some form of postseason play.
Obviously, the NIT isn’t as prestigious of a tournament as the NCAA, but it still should provide some exciting moments along with some quality play. This is one of the better NIT fields as it features defending National Champion Kentucky and their bevy of future NBA players.
It also features two other top tier SEC teams in Alabama and Tennessee, who are both disappointed on having missed the Big Dance. Teams like Maryland, Virginia and Baylor all had at-large aspirations, and are all a threat to be the last team standing in this field.
The action gets started on Tuesday, so here’s a look at all the games today:
(7) Niagara at Maryland (2) — 7PM ET/ESPN 2
Maryland and Niagara get the NIT party started in College Park. The Terps had a seemingly strong case for making the NCAA Tournament as they sported two wins over 2-seeded Duke on their resume. Instead, Maryland comes into the NIT, and should be considered one of the favorites to cut down the nets in New York led by Dez Wells and Alex Len.
Niagara received an auto bid to the NIT by way of winning the regular season Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Purple Eagles were bounced in the conference tournament semifinals by Iona, who went on to earn the conference’s auto bid to the NCAA Tournament. Niagara guards Antoine Mason and Juan’ya Green average 17 points per game apiece and will be tough matchups for the Terps.
Spread: Maryland -11
(5) St. John’s at Saint Joseph’s (4) — 7PM ET/ESPNU
Saint Joseph’s dream of winning the Atlantic-10 and getting into the NCAA Tournament ended with a heartbreaking loss to VCU in the quarterfinals. This marks the second consecutive trip to the NIT for the Hawks, who were bounced by Northern Iowa in last year’s first round. Saint Joe’s has an impressive win over Notre Dame on their resume, and they also played VCU close twice. Senior guard Carl Jones and junior guard Langston Galloway lead the way.
After registering only 13 wins a year ago, Steve Lavin’s St. John’s bunch is excited about getting back into postseason play of any kind. The Red Storm also boast a win over Notre Dame on their resume to go along with a victory over Cincinnati, but they have been reeling of late as they lost seven of their last eight games, including their last five. They were bounced in the opening round of the Big East Tournament by Villanova. With leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison having been suspended for the rest of the season in early March, Lavin’s crew will look to freshman forward Jakarr Sampson and sophomore guard Phil Greene IV to shoulder the load in the postseason.
Spread: Saint Joseph’s -6.5
(5) Louisiana Tech at Florida State (4) — 7:15 ET/ESPN3
Florida State enters the NIT after missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. An 18-15 overall record and a 9-9 mark in the ACC isn’t quite what ‘Noles fans had in mind for the season. They lost to North Carolina in the ACC Quarterfinals to officially end their quest of a fifth straight NCAA Tournament bid. Still, the ‘Noles are a dangerous team with the always clutch Michael Snaer, who has hit five game winning shots in his Florida State career.
A 26-win season that included a streak of 18 in a row ended in disappointment for Louisiana Tech. After a 16-0 start in WAC play, the Bulldogs lost their final two regular season games to end up splitting the regular season conference conference title with Denver. To make matters worse, Louisiana Tech was knocked out of the WAC Tournament in the quarterfinals by a team in UT-San Antonio that had won only three conference games all year. Sophomore guard Raheem Appleby will look to lead a team Bulldogs squad on a run in the NIT.
Spread: Florida State -5
(1) Kentucky at Robert Morris (8) — 7:30 ET/ESPN
The defending National Champion Kentucky Wildcats, and No. 1 seed in the NIT, must go on the road to take on the No. 8 seed Robert Morris due to Rupp Arena being used for the NCAA Tournament. Still, even for the NIT, Big Blue Nation will likely make the six hour trip up to Moon Township, Pennsylvania. After beating Florida in their final regular season game, it looked like Kentucky had locked up a bid to the NCAA Tournament, but a surprising loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC Quarterfinals busted their bubble. The Wildcats haven’t been able to find consistency since Nerlens Noel went down. Young guns Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress will look to carry Kentucky to New York.
Robert Morris has to be fired up at being able to play a home game against the defending National Champions. The Colonials have long been a fixture in the NCAA Tournament as one of the top teams in the Northeast Conference. They won the regular season title to automatically qualify for the NIT, but they were upset by Mount St. Mary’s in the NEC Semifinals. Robert Morris is a pretty balanced team with junior guard Karvel Anderson and sophomore forward Lucky Jones leading the way.
Spread: Kentucky -4.5
(8) Northeastern at Alabama (1) — 9PM ET/ESPN2
For the second time in three years, Alabama is a No. 1 seed in the NIT after narrowly missing the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide has nobody to blame but themselves with losses to Dayton, Mercer, Tulane and Auburn on the resume. They have, however, proven their ability to play with anybody after twice competing hard with Florida, including the SEC Semifinals where Alabama held a ten point lead in the second half. It’s all about the guard play for the Crimson Tide with junior Trevor Releford and sophomore Trevor Lacey shouldering the scoring load.
Northeastern is a 20 game winner out of the Colonial Athletic Association, and won the conference’s regular season title. The Huskies lost in the conference championship game to James Madison. Still, 20 wins and a berth in the NIT is an improvement over the last two seasons where the Huskies posted losing records. Senior guards Joel Smith and Jonathan Lee along with sophomore forward Quincy Ford all average over 12 points per game.
Spread: Alabama -12
(8) Norfolk State at Virginia (1) — 9PM ET/ESPNU
Virginia is a team absolutely no one could figure out this year. They posted wins over Wisconsin, Tennessee, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke during the season, but they also lost games to the likes of George Mason, Delaware, Old Dominion, Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Boston College. Consistency killed the Cavaliers in 2012-13, and those losses were too much to overcome on Selection Sunday. Juniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell will be tough to handle for most teams.
Norfolk State ran the table in Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference play going a perfect 16-0 in the regular season. A year after pulling off an upset of No. 2 seeded Missouri in the NCAA Tournament, it looked like the Spartans were well on their way to a return trip to the dance. Instead, they were upset in overtime by Bethune-Cookman in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament. If they want a chance at upsetting Virginia, they will need their two leading scorers — junior guards Pendarvis Williams and Malcolm Hawkins — to play better than they did in their conference tournament loss.
Spread: Virginia -16.5
(6) Ohio at Denver (3) — 9:15 ET/ESPN3
This is one of the more intriguing matchups of the first round with two smaller conference schools with impressive conference records. Denver finished 16-2 in the WAC to earn a split of the conference championship in the regular season. The Pioneers, however, were upset in the conference tournament quarterfinals by Texas State. Still, Denver is a very talented team that is a threat to make a run in the NIT. They get the majority of their scoring from the trio of junior forward Chris Udofia, and sophomore guards Royce O’Neale and Brett Olson.
Ohio went 14-2 in the MAC to earn a split of the regular season title with Akron. The Bobcats made it to the MAC Title game where they were blown out by Akron. Unselfish play is what keyed Ohio’s 24-9 season as the Bobcats lead the nation in assists at 17.7 per game. Senior guard D.J. Cooper leads the team in points and assists at 14.1 and 7.2 per game respectively. Seniors Reggie Keely and Walter Offutt also average double digits in scoring.
Spread: Denver -7
(6) Washington at BYU (3) — 9:30 ET/ESPN
For the first time since 2006, the NCAA Tournament does not include BYU. A 21-11 record and a 10-6 mark in the West Coast Conference wasn’t good enough to earn the Cougars an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. They finished third in the conference standings in the regular season behind Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. They went a combined 0-4 against those two teams. BYU’s hopes of making a run in the conference tournament ended in the quarterfinals with a disappointing loss to San Diego. Led by sophomore guard Tyler Haws (20.9 ppg) and senior forward Brandon Davies (17.6 ppg), the Cougars are very dangerous.
Washington is hoping for a similar run in the NIT as last year. The Huskies made it all the way to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden before falling to Minnesota in overtime. Washington pushed eventual Pac-12 tournament champion Oregon to the brink in the quarterfinals before losing by three in overtime. Junior guard C.J. Wilcox will go head to head with BYU’s Haws, and senior guards Scott Suggs and Abdul Gaddy will look to take some of the scoring load off of Wilcox’s shoulders.
Spread: BYU -5.5
(5) Stephen F. Austin at Stanford (4) — 11PM ET/ESPN2
Stanford gets a chance to defend their NIT Championship from last year as they enter the NIT as a No. 4 seed. It was an up and down season for Johnny Dawkins and the Cardinal with the peak coming in a 24-point victory over Oregon in late January. Stanford lost by a single point in overtime to Arizona State in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament. Junior forwards Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis are loads to handle inside, and sophomore guard Chasson Randle spreads the floor on the outside.
At 27-4 overall and 16-2 in the Southland, Stephen F. Austin won the regular season conference Southland title. They were looking to get into the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in their history, but they lost in the conference title game to Northwestern State by just two points. The Lumberjacks cannot be taken lightly as they do boast a road win over Oklahoma on their resume. They are an experienced group led by seniors Taylor Smith and Antonio Bostic.
Spread: Stanford -8.5
Odds to Win NIT
Southern Miss 4/1
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