Busting Brackets

Predictions: 2011 NIT Semifinals


After it was announced that the NCAA Tournament would be expanded to 68 teams, most of the talk was about how watered down the tournament would be and how it would hurt the product.

But thanks to VCU, those discussions have calmed down just a little bit.

So with more teams being added to the Big Dance, there was a legitimate reason to believe that the NIT would, well, not be so good. And overall, that’s pretty much been the case this year.

I’ve always enjoyed watching the NIT, but I just haven’t felt it this year. Perhaps it’s because of the historically weak NCAA tournament field. Or maybe it’s just because there really wasn’t a team that had the drawing power to make people care a whole lot about this tournament.

But still, it’s always fun once things get to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals, and that action gets going tonight with two pretty solid matchups.

Let’s take a look at the games and make some predictions:

2 Washington State vs. 4 Wichita State – 7:00 PM ET, ESPN2

Unlike the two teams that will follow this game, neither the Cougars or Shockers had much hope to make it into the field of 68. However, both teams have been playing very well to get to this point, and this should be a fun game to watch. If you haven’t got the chance to see Klay Thompson play this season for Washington State, then get ready to see a really fantastic player. He’s averaged 22 points per game this year, and is always a threat to go off for 30+ on any given night.

As for Wichita State, they aren’t the flashiest team out there, but they’ve beaten three solid teams in Nebraska, Virginia Tech, and College of Charleston to get to this point. They’ve also got a little preview of what it’s like to have to defend a great scorer, as Andrew Goudelock of Charleston finds ways to score like Thompson does. The balance of Wichita State will be key, especially if they can find a way to slow down Thompson, and make someone else beat them.

It’s hard to look past what the Shockers have been able to do this season, as 27 wins is pretty incredible regardless of who you’re playing. Washington State has been a little up and down at times, and that worries me a little. They found a way to beat Northwestern in OT to get to New York, but I think they’re run ends here.

Prediction: Wichita State 74, Washington State 66

1 Alabama vs. 1 Colorado – 9:00 MP ET, ESPN2

Personally, I think Alabama was the biggest snub of this year’s NCAA Tournament in terms of being the best overall team that was left out. Their out-of-conference schedule wasn’t very good, and that’s the reason they got left out. But make no mistake about it, this team was tournament-worthy, and could have made a solid run. Anthony Grant has done a great job in Tuscaloosa and had the SEC West not been absolutely awful this year, they would have been a lock for the tournament since they won that division. Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green have been the leaders of this team, and they have looked pretty impressive so far in this tournament.

On the other side, the Buffaloes have one of the best players in college basketball in Alec Burks, and it would have been great to see him get a chance to lead his team on a run in the Big Dance. Colorado got snubbed just like the Crimson Tide did, so both teams are trying to prove that they belonged in the tournament. So far, so good.

While neither team has exactly faced a gauntlet of difficult competition to get here, they’ve still earned their spot here, and should probably be playing in the championship game instead of in the semis. It’s hard to bet against a player like Burks, but I think Grant will have team ready defensively. They’ve been one of the better defensive teams in the country this season, and I expect them to find a way to pull this one out.

Prediction: Alabama 67, Colorado 63

Who are you picking in tonight’s matchups at the Garden?

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