2016 NIT Preview: Best Odds, Sleepers and Pick
It’s always a bummer to miss out on the true March Madness via the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, but there is still plenty of reason to tune in for the NIT, which offers a secondary stage for 32 respectable teams that barely missed out on college basketball’s top tourney.
There is still a lot at stake here, and the action gets started Tuesday night with the first round of NIT play. Tuesday showcases some heavy hitters, with big name schools like Ohio State, Florida and San Diego State hitting the hardwood.
They might not be the best teams on the floor come the first round, however, as Akron, Valpo, Saint Mary’s and South Carolina are just a handful of teams on day one that could make deep runs.
With the action coming at us fast, let’s take a look at what we should be bracing for in the 2016 National Invitation Tournament:
The favorites are naturally the four #1 seeds in this year’s NIT, with South Carolina and Monmouth tying (6/1 odds to win it all), followed by Valparaiso (7/1) and St. Bonaventure (8/1).
Having the top seed makes these teams dangerous threats, as they begin with home court advantage and naturally enjoyed successful seasons to earn their spot. That being said, there are a few teams with strong odds that did not earn a #1 seed, as Saint Mary’s actually ties with St. Bonaventure for the third best overall odds to win the NIT.
There is a rather steep drop-off from there, but fans and bettors alike won’t want to completely write off Washington (14/1), BYU (14/1), Florida (15/1), Virginia Tech (18/1), Georgia (18/1) or Ohio State (18/1), all of which had solid seasons and/or emerged out of brutal conferences.
Outside of the teams with the best odds (18/1 or better), it’s important to note a few teams with not so amazing odds that could genuinely make some noise, or even make a run for the title.
To see how possible that is, one needn’t look long at the NIT history, as the eventual champions range from all across the nation, from Minnesota to Stanford, to Dayton and Penn State.
Records are usually thrown out the window in the NIT, as last year’s champ (Stanford) was just 24-13, Minnesota (2014 winner) was just 25-13 and the 2013 champion Baylor also had 13 losses on their record.
Team records can still be a pretty good indicator of how well they could fare going forward, but the best way to gauge a team’s prospects is looking at their RPI rank, their success against top-25 teams and how they matchup against their opponent each round.
As far as round one goes, the top sleepers (when you consider the odds) could boil down to San Diego State (20/1), Creighton (20/1), Alabama (30/1) and Davidson (35/1).
Any team can rise from the ashes of not punching a ticket to the NCAA tourney, but these four sleepers may be the top dark horses with average to below average odds.
San Diego State was actually a surprise snub for March Madness and could be a top team to watch in the NIT. Creighton is a stretched out offensive team that can take down anyone when they get hot. They’ll actually take on Alabama, who are a gritty bunch led by former NBA coach and player, Avery Johnson. The Crimson Tide actually had a realistic shot at getting into the bigger tournament, but a late-season skid sent them to the NIT, instead. However, Johnson’s team could continue to build with this NIT appearance and threaten a deep run if they can group together.
The other team to watch could be Davidson, who were 20-12 during the regular season and rise and fall behind the nation’s fifth leading scorer – Jack Gibbs. Davidson is all Gibbs and all offense – all the time. If their up-tempo attack gets and stays hot, they could be tough to beat to get the NIT started. And if they advance, they could be a serious problem for any teams that struggle to slow down quicker guards and outside shooting.
It’s a college basketball tournament, so any educated guess is a good one. However, just like the NCAA tourney, there is not a true front-runner here. Vegas says one of the top #1 seeds will win, though, and it’s hard to argue against that.
Monmouth dominated their conference and because of where they play, arguably got screwed out of a March Madness bid. They’re going to be out for blood and after finishing 55th in ESPN’s RPI rankings, they clearly have gone through enough to form a championship mentality. With a chip on their shoulder, they’re our team to beat in the 2016 NIT.
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