The 2013 NIT got off to a fast start on day 1 highlighted by Robert Morris taking down the defending National Champion Kentucky Wildcats to end what was a miserable season for John Calipari and all members of Big Blue Nation. Nine first round games were played yesterday, and five of them were decided by single digits.
We can only hope that day 2 of the NIT provides just as much excitement and drama as day 1. Let’s take a look at the remaining seven first round games that will be played today:
(6) Indiana State at Iowa (3)
Iowa had a respectable showing in the toughest league in America in 2012-13, going 21-12 overall and 9-9 in the Big Ten. Save for a home win over Wisconsin, however, the Hawkeyes just couldn’t get wins over the big boys of the league to propel them into the Big Dance. Iowa is looking to make a run in the NIT with a very young roster, and hopefully carry the momentum into next season. Junior guard Roy Devyn Marble and sophomore forward Aaron White lead the way for the Hawkeyes. Rebounding is one of Iowa’s greatest strengths as they rank 10th in the country, while Indiana State is 207th. That could loom large in this matchup in Iowa City.
At 18-14 and 9-9 in the Missouri Valley, Indiana State made it to the conference tournament semifinals before getting blown out by Creighton. Much like Iowa, this Sycamores team is battle tested having notched wins over Miami, Ole Miss, Creighton and Wichita State. Indiana State also played New Mexico State and San Diego State down to the wire. Iowa cannot take this team lightly, or the NIT will end early for the Hawkeyes. Junior guard Jake Odum, and junior fowards Manny Arop and RJ Mahurin all average in double figures.
Spread: Iowa -12.5
(5) Charlotte at Providence (4)
A 9-9 record in the Big East isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and it can be said that Providence was a much better team at the end of the year than they were at the beginning. The Friars have proven an ability to play with anybody, and they notched impressive wins in conference play over NCAA Tournament teams Villanova, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. They also played a number of other close games with the league’s best. Bryce Cotton is the player to watch as he leads the team in scoring at 19.4 points per game. Cotton will be looking to redeem himself after a forgettable performance in their Big East Tournament loss to Cincinnati. Junior forward Kadeem Bates (15.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and sophomore forward LaDontae Henton (13.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg) will be tough to handle for Charlotte on the interior.
Charlotte enters the NIT after showing marked improvement over last season. The 49ers had an eight win improvement in 2012-13 with a 21-11 record and an 8-8 showing in A-10 play. Charlotte went 12-2 in non-conference action before going just .500 within the conference. They won a controversial game with Richmond in the opening round of the A-10 tournament before falling to Saint Louis. They do boast a win at Butler, so going to Providence and getting a win wouldn’t be very shocking if they were to pull it off. The 49ers don’t really have a go-to-guy, but they have three guys — Chris Braswell, DeMario Mayfield and Pierria Henry — who all average 10+ points per game.
Spread: Providence -9.5
(7) Stony Brook at Massachusetts (2)
UMass hopes to get on a run like last year in the NIT and make a return trip to Madison Square Garden for the Final Four. They were knocked out by Stanford in the semifinals a year ago. The Minutemen went 21-11 overall and 9-7 in A-10 action this year. They didn’t rack up many quality wins during the regular season, but they also didn’t let bad losses pile up like many other teams in this field. UMass beat George Washington and Temple in the A-10 tournament before losing to VCU in the semifinals. UMass has an offense capable of lighting up the scoreboard led by three guys who average over 12 points per game. Junior guard Chaz Williams leads the way with 15.9 points and 7.4 assists per game.
Stony Brook earned an automatic bid into the NIT by way of winning the America East regular season title with a 14-2 record in conference play and a 24-7 mark overall. It was their second consecutive regular season conference title, and for the second straight year they ended up in the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament. The Seawolves lost a heartbreaking 61-59 tilt to Albany in the tournament semifinals, with the Great Danes going on to win the tournament and getting a date with Duke in the NCAA’s. Stony Brook also has a trio of guys who average double figures led by freshman forward Jameel Warney, who leads the team in both scoring and is second in rebounding.
Spread: Massachusetts -4.5
(7) Mercer at Tennessee (2)
Keep your eyes on a potential for upset here because Tennessee doesn’t seem to care much about being here, and their head coach Cuonzo Martin has spent the last few days telling everyone who would listen that the Vols deserved a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The more motivated team normally wins these kind of games (See Morris, Robert). If Tennessee comes out motivated then they should win because Tennessee finished the season playing as well as anyone. They won nine of their last ten regular season games, including victories over Florida and Missouri. The Vols were knocked out of the SEC Tournament in the quarterfinals by Alabama. Junior guard Jodan McRae (16.0 ppg), sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes (12.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and junior guard Trae Golden (11.9 ppg, 4.0 apg) lead the way for the Vols.
Mercer is probably a little disappointed to be here also after winning the regular season Atlantic-Sun Championship, but then losing in the conference title game to Florida Gulf Coast. However, the Bears are probably relishing the opportunity to play against a big named school like Tennessee, and they have already proven that they can beat SEC teams on their home floor. They have an impressive road win over Alabama on their resume. Senior guard Travis Smith (13.5 ppg) and junior guard Langston Hall (11.0 ppg) lead the show for Mercer.
Spread: Tennessee -9
(7) Long Beach State at Baylor (2)
Baylor is on a list of a long line of teams that is nearly impossible to get a read on. Their an athletic bunch that beat Kansas by 23 and also notched wins at Kentucky and at home against Oklahoma State. But, they also have loss to College of Charleston on the resume. They showed flashes of being a really good team at times, but they looked awfully mediocre at other times. Baylor needed a couple wins in the Big XII Tournament in order to earn an NCAA bid, but they lost to Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals. Still, I think the Bears should be thought of as one of the favorites to win the NIT. Led by senior guard Pierre Jackson’s near 20 points per game, Baylor is a very dangerous team.
Long Beach State started the year just 5-9, but went 14-4 in conference play to win the regular season Big West title and automatically qualify for the NIT. It looked like the 49ers were destined for a return trip to the NCAA Tournament even without Casper Ware. Instead, Long Beach State lost to UC Irvine in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Replacing Casper Ware was no easy task, but senior guard/forward James Ennis helped in the transition with 16.7 ppg and 6.9 rpg. The environment in Waco won’t be foreign for the 49ers as they played North Carolina, Arizona, Syracuse, Ohio State and UCLA during the regular season.
Spread: Baylor -12.5
(8) Charleston Southern at Southern Miss (1)
Southern Miss needed to win the C-USA Tournament in order to make the NCAA Tournament, and they came oh so close to doing so. It took two overtimes for Memphis to dispatch the Golden Eagles in the championship game. Even though they didn’t quite make the Big Dance, it was the fourth straight 20 win season for Southern Miss as head coach Larry Eustachy has completely resurrected the program. Senior guard Dwayne Davis is the heart and soul of this team, and he is a deadly shooter from the outside. He averages over 16 points per game while shooting nearly 50% from the field and 44% from three.
Charleston Southern came very close to making it to only their second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, but they lost in the Big South Championship Game to Liberty after earning a share of the regular season conference title with High Point. Sophomore guards Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper lead the way for the Buccaneers. Nimley is the team’s leader in scoring (15.7 ppg) and assists (5.0 apg). He also averages 5 rebounds per game despite being only 5-foot-8. Harper is the team’s second leading scorer at 15.2 ppg.
Spread: Southern Miss -14
(6) Detroit at Arizona State (3)
Arizona State took a major step in the right direction this year after two straight losing seasons including last year’s debacle of only 10 wins. The Sun Devils went 21-12 and 9-9 in the Pac-12, and were knocked out of the Pac-12 tournament in the quarterfinals by UCLA. Freshman Jahii Carson was a big reason for Arizona State’s 11-win improvement in 2012-13. He leads the team in scoring (18.3 ppg) and assists (5.0 apg). Senior Carrick Felix also had a lot to do with it as the team’s second leading scorer (14.2 ppg) and leading rebounder (8.2 rpg).
There aren’t many teams who can light up a scoreboard like Detroit. The Titans are 9th in the nation in scoring at 78.1 points per game led by former McDonald’s All American Ray McCallum. The junior guard leads the team in scoring at 18.8 points per game, and is also the team’s leader in assists at 4.5 per game. The Titans were stifled in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament by Wright State as they were held to a season low 54 points in their two point loss.
Spread: Arizona State -4
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