2016 NIT Semifinals Preview: Who Makes it to the Title Game?
The road to the 2016 Final Four is the front page story, especially with the Elite 8 going down this weekend on Saturday and Sunday night.
Two days later, however, the NIT owns all, as BYU, Valpo, George Washington and San Diego State continue their march to the National Invitational Tournament championship game.
All four teams have braved a solid NIT crowd and stand a reasonable chance to make it to the NIT title game stage. The big question, of course, is which two teams should we brace for when Thursday’s championship game arrives? Let’s break down both Tuesday night contests and see if we can’t come away with a winner:
BYU (2) vs. Valparaiso (1)
Line: Pick’em Total: 146
It probably would have made for a better NIT tourney if this game was the title game, but getting an explosive matchup like this at any point is still great for college basketball, and it’s not like it means nothing.
BYU brings their up-tempo offensive attack up against Valpo’s gritty defense, giving college basketball die hards a contrasting style mash-up, and one that truly could go either way. Vegas certainly agrees, as this game is currently listed as a total toss-up.
The Cougars will certainly be tough to slow down, as they’re laying down 88 points per game in the NIT tourney, up from their 84 points per game during the regular season. Backed by Kyle Collinsworth, the Cougars lead the NCAA in defensive rebounds and were one of the better offenses in the nation.
That gives #1 seed Valpo a lot to consider, but it may not be something their defense can’t handle. Valpo was almost dancing before losing to UWGB in the Horizon League tourney title game, and they’ve displayed that intense defense throughout their NIT run, even holding a good St. Mary’s offense to 44 points.
The other aspect working in Valpo’s favor is the unstoppable Alec Peters, who has scored at least 20 points in seven straight games and should have no problem against BYU’s weak defense. The Cougars real chance here is to turn this into a track meet, but the more disciplined Crusaders will do all they can do keep that from happening.
If they can keep things wrapped tight and Peters once again shows up, Valpo should move on for a chance to claim the 2016 NIT title.
Pick: Valpo 72, BYU 66
George Washington (4) vs. San Diego State (2)
Line: San Diego State -3 Total: 129.5
San Diego State is another team like Valpo that should both be in the NCAA tourney and relies on elite, smothering team defense. The Aztecs have been quite dominant through their NIT run, winning all three of their games by a combined 55 points.
That’s a scary thought for George Washington, who has some impressive wins on their resume (Virginia, Seton Hall and VCU) but didn’t display the consistency or defensive tenacity San Diego State did during the regular season. Instead, George Washington relies more forcing turnovers and running the floor. They also can hang their hat on taking the NIT’s top seed (Monmouth) out of the tourney en route to the Semifinals.
Tyler Cavanaugh has remained the driving force offensively for the Colonials, but he’s got as tough a task as they come, going up against a nasty Aztecs defense. George Washington (75 points per game) may have the offense to push the needle here, but San Diego State’s defense (60 points per game allowed) should prove to be too much in the end.
Pick: San Diego State 68, George Washington 63
Ultimately, we’re headed for a defensive battle for the ages in the NIT finale on Thursday night. That should include an intense showdown between the Aztecs and Crusaders, which could profile as another gritty pick’em. For now, we’ll lean back and enjoy Tuesday’s action.
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