NIT 2012 Bracket: Why the UMass Minutemen Are Locks for NIT Title Game

Paul Grossinger@@pgrossingerAnalyst IIMarch 20, 2012

The Minutemen will be going to the NIT championship.

To get there, they first have to get past the Drexel Dragons.  The Dragons are led by Bruce Flint, the former coach at UMass, which will add some flavor to this matchup.  

On paper, Drexel looks like the more likely winner in this Final Four matchup.  The Dragons went 26-6 in the regular season and nearly made the NCAA tournament.  Drexel was a preseason favorite and it lived up to the hype. Team leader Sammy Givens and sophomore scorer Franz Massenat led this team. By contrast, the Minutemen went 21-11 and were a mid-level seed to the NIT.

But UMass has several important factors going for it that make the Minutemen an upset lock.  The team has already unexpectedly won two big games in the tournament already (upsetting No. 1 seed Seton Hall and No. 4 seed Mississippi State en-route to this Final Four game).  

The Minutemen have two great closers, Terrell Vinson and Chaz Williams, who hit back-to-back threes to put away Seton Hall 77-67.  Having those kinds of ice-cold finishers is an essential component to winning big games like this one.  

UMass will also benefit from its group's youth and speed.  

Vinson and Williams are the closers while sophomores Jesse Morgan and Raphiael Putney also average over 10 points per game.  That gives the group scoring versatility and the athleticism to run Drexel off the floor.  

Although the Dragons are an excellent team, they don't have the Minutemen's speed or their ice-cold efficiency late in games. They nearly blew an 18-point lead to Iowa State in this tournament.  

The Minutemen also have history on their side: The school has won in its last two appearances in the NIT quarterfinals. That includes their last appearance, when they were coached by none other than Bruce Flint. 

Now, Flint is staring at the other side of history.   

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