Preview: NIT Season Tip-Off

    
November 12th, 2007

Things change quickly in college basketball.  What was a dirty word in March – NIT – is now a positive.  For teams on the bubble last March, the prospect of playing in the NIT instead of the NCAA tournament was hard to stomach.  However, now that it is November, playing in the NIT – the Dick’s Sporting Good NIT Season Tip-Off – is a welcome experience.

 

This year’s tourney kicks off on November 12th at four different regional sites, with the championship game tipping off on November 23rd at the Mecca of college basketball, Madison Square Garden in New York.  While there are some big name teams among the 16 participants, there is only one nationally ranked squad (Texas A&M).  Here is a breakdown on how things should shake out:

 

East Regional – Carrier Dome – Syracuse, NY – Nov 12 & 13

Syracuse vs. Siena; St. Joseph’s vs. Fairleigh Dickinson

 

Region’s Top Players (CHN player ranking in brackets):

Donte Greene – Syracuse – FR (64)

Ahmad Nivins – St. Joseph’s – JR (79)

Eric Devendorf  - Syracuse – JR (81)

 

The Orangemen have the decided advantage in this bracket, both in terms of talent and location of the games.  While Syracuse lost a bunch of talent to graduation, and in the case of Andy Rautins – injury, their freshman class more than makes up for it.  As expected, Donte Greene has led the way, averaging 21 points and 5.5 boards through the team’s two exhibition games.  Siena is a solid squad, expected to compete for the MEAC title, but the ‘Cuse should ride the home court advantage to the win.

 

Fairleigh Dickinson will have their hands full with St. Joes, who are looking as one of the teams to beat in the Atlantic 10 this season.  Led by Bob Hurley Sr. disciple Ahmad Nivins, the Hawks return four starters from last year’s 18-win squad.  The boys from Philly win this tilt.

 

The final of the East Regional should be a dandy, but the home crowd should be enough to push Syracuse into the semis and New York City.

 

Midwest Regional – Jerome Schottenstein Center - Columbus, OH – Nov 12 & 13

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin-Green Bay; Columbia vs. Delaware State

 

Region’s Top Players (CHN player ranking in brackets):

Kosta Koufos – Ohio State – FR (55)

 

Maybe life after Greg Oden & Mike Conley Jr. will be harder than Ohio State originally hoped - the Buckeyes recently dropped an exhibition game to Division II Findlay.  However, Oden’s replacement, Kosta Koufas, was sharp in the team’s two exhibition games, averaging 17.5 points and 9.5 boards.  UWGB returns a veteran squad, by the Buckeyes should prevail.  On the other side of the bracket, Columbia returns all five starters, including one of the Ivy League’s best in John Baumann (13.3ppg, 6.5rpg last season). They should knock off a Delaware State squad that lost four starters off last year’s 21-win team.  Ohio State should roll through Columbia in the Midwest Championship game and pack their bags for MSG. 

 

West Regional – Bank of America Arena – Seattle, WA – Nov 13 & 14

Washington vs. NJIT; Utah vs. High Point

 

Region’s Top Players (CHN player ranking in brackets):

Jon Brockman – Washington – JR (29)

Luke Nevill – Utah – JR (87)

 

Coming off a very disappointing season, and the loss of their best player – Spencer Hawes – to the NBA, New Jersey Tech should be a good opponent for Washington to start off their season with and build some confidence.  The Huskies should dominate this match up.  Utah will have a much more difficult opponent in High Point, one of the top teams in the Big South with one of the conferences best players in Arizona Reid.  Led by their Aussie duo, Luke Nevill and Stephen Weigh, Utah should get the W in this one.

 

Upset special – Utah can knock off Washington in the final of this regional.  The game will be a battle between two of the nation’s finest big men – Washington’s Jon Brockman and Utah’s Nevill.  Look for Utah to shock the home crowd in this one and make it to the Garden. 

 

South Regional – Reed Arena – College Station, TX – Nov 13 & 14

Texas A&M vs. Oral Roberts; UTEP vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi

 

Region’s Top Players (CHN player ranking in brackets):

Joseph Jones – Texas A&M – SR (44)

DeAndre Jordan – Texas A&M – FR (78)

 

Texas A&M lost both their on the court and off the court leaders in the off season, as coach Billy Gillispie bolted for Kentucky and point guard Acie Law graduated to the NBA.  Still, the Aggies have a great coach, Mark Turgeon, a top big man in Joseph Jones and one of the best under-the-radar frosh in DeAndre Jordan.  It all adds up to a win over Oral Roberts, who lost three-time conference player of the year Caleb Green to graduation.

 

In the battle of Texas, let’s go with another upset – TAMU-CC, and stud Chris Daniels, over UTEP.  In the South final the home team Aggies should prevail and head east for the semis.

 

Semifinals – Madison Square Garden – New York – Nov 21st

Prediction: Syracuse vs. Ohio State, Texas A&M vs. Utah

 

With a few wins under their belt after the Findlay fiasco, the Buckeyes should knock off Syracuse in the one semi.  The Aggies should take care of Utah and go on to knock off Ohio State in the final to earn the championship. 

 

But, with the way college basketball tends to go, it is just as likely that none of these predictions will come true and Cinderella will rule the day once again.


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