NIT 2013 Bracket: Projections for Every Tournament Game

Josh SchochAnalyst IIIMarch 17, 2013

NIT 2013 Bracket: Projections for Every Tournament Game

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    It's not as pretty as the NCAA tournament, but the NIT bracket is chock full of talented teams.

    With fewer automatic bids than the NCAA tourney, the NIT has closer matchups in the first round and beyond, as each team is closely matched from the beginning.

    The NIT is upon us folks, so let's take a look at how all 31 games will play out.

First Round: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Robert Morris

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    It's tough to have three potential lottery picks on your team and miss out on the NCAA tournament, but now John Calipari and Kentucky have to forget about missing out and focus on the NIT.

    With Nerlens Noel out with a torn ACL, Kentucky will be led by Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. These three freshmen, along with some other talented youngsters and a few seniors, will look to take home another championship this year.

    Because Rupp Arena is occupied by the NCAA tournament, Kentucky will play at Robert Morris, but it won't be enough for the Colonials.

    Karvel Anderson and Lucky Jones simply won't be enough for Robert Morris against a Kentucky team that is still smarting from being snubbed from the Big Dance, and Kentucky will roll in this one.

    Predicted Score: Kentucky 79, Robert Morris 69

First Round: No. 4 Providence vs. No. 5 Charlotte

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    The Friars are going to be a very good team very soon...but they're not there yet.

    After winning seven of eight games late in the season, Providence will look to ride Bryce Cotton, Kadeem Batts, LaDontae Henton and future star Kris Dunn on a long NIT run.

    Charlotte got off to one of the best starts in school history this year, going 9-0 before finally losing to Miami.

    While the 49ers eventually went 8-8 in conference play, the team had few bad losses in A-10 play. Expect them to be ready for postseason play.

    This is an interesting matchup because both teams rely heavily on guard play. This game will be decided in the backcourt, although there will also be a star-studded matchup in the frontcourt between Providence's Kadeem Batts and Charlotte's Chris Braswell.

    This game is going to come down to the wire, but I'm taking Providence after watching the Friars get hot near the end of its Big East conference schedule.

    Prediction: Providence 68, Charlotte 64

First Round: No. 3 Arizona State vs. No. 6 Detroit

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    After stumbling to the finish of the regular season, Arizona State finds itself in the middle of the pack of the NIT. Four straight losses to close the regular season did a number on the team's postseason seeding.

    Led by freshman phenom Jahii Carson and his 18.3 points and 5.0 assists per game, the Sun Devils are looking to turn things around and improve upon their 12-3 nonconference record.

    The Sun Devils will be hosting Ray McCallum and Detroit. The Titans went 7-9 on the road this year and struggled to beat nonconference opponents away from home, losing their first five road contests.

    McCallum is a superstar with his 18.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game, but his junior season will be ended unceremoniously by Carson and a talented Arizona State team that went 15-4 at home.

    Predicted Score: Arizona State 76, Detroit 68

First Round: No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 7 Long Beach State

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    Baylor was supposed to be a Top 25 team again this year, but Pierre Jackson just didn't get enough help to keep his team elite.

    The Bears went 9-9 in Big 12 play but have a very talented roster, with seven-foot freshman Isaiah Austin and athletic power forward Cory Jefferson up front and a pass-happy backcourt that also includes Brady Heslip, who dominated the NCAA tournament last year.

    Baylor has the potential to win it all or cool off and lose in the first round, but it really comes down to the matchups.

    Long Beach State was able to pull off a few big upsets last year, but the team has struggled this time around. While it still won the Big West, the team failed to win the conference tournament and made the NIT as an automatic bid.

    The 49ers simply can't contain Pierre Jackson and match up with Austin, and Baylor will win this game.

    Predicted Score: Baylor 76, Long Beach State 60

First Round: No. 1 Southern Miss. vs. No. 8 Charleston Southern

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    The Golden Eagles played very well in Conference USA play, going 12-4 with three of those losses coming against Memphis, who went undefeated in conference play.

    Led by Dwayne Davis' 16.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game (the latter two ranked second on team), Southern Miss. has the potential to make a lot of noise in NIT play.

    Charleston Southern fell one game short of an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, but the Buccaneers still received an automatic bid to the NIT.

    Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper are a dangerous duo who each average more than 15 points per game, but they will have some serious trouble against a deep, talented Southern Miss. team.

    Predicted Score: Southern Miss. 76, Charleston Southern 58

First Round: No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 5 Louisiana Tech

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    The Seminoles were supposed to ride senior leader Michael Snaer to the NCAA tournament, but Snaer didn't get any help at all and Florida State struggled.

    After beating Virginia, North Carolina State and Clemson before losing to North Carolina, the Seminoles showed that they're still a tough team and could provide some thrills in the NIT.

    Louisiana Tech looked like it was NCAA tournament-bound after starting 14-0 in WAC play. However, back-to-back losses to close the regular season and a first-round loss in the WAC tournament left the team in shambles following an 18-game winning streak.

    The Bulldogs are reeling, and it will be interesting to see if they can get it together for their game against the Seminoles.

    Louisiana Tech has to be angry after losing three straight, but the team has lost by 16 points per game against teams that it had already beaten, which makes me think that they are just falling apart. Traveling to Florida State won't be easy, and I'll take Snaer and Co. in this one.

    Predicted Score: Florida State 72, Louisiana Tech 65

First Round: No. 3 BYU vs. No. 6 Washington

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    There might not be a more exciting player in the NIT than Tyler Haws of BYU. His 20.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game make him a productive player, and the sophomore could take over in his first year at BYU.

    Washington struggled in Pac-12 play, losing seven of eight games during the middle of conference play.

    However, the team has been playing better as of late, led by Scott Suggs' 18 points per game in the last six. Washington has gone 4-2 during that span.

    This is going to be a close game, and I see Suggs leading Washington to the upset.

    Predicted Score: Washington 67, BYU 65

First Round: No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 7 Mercer

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    Look out—Tennessee is hot.

    After winning nine of their last 11 games (including wins over No. 8 Florida, No. 25 Kentucky and Missouri), the Volunteers have grabbed a No. 2 seed in the NIT and have a date with Mercer.

    Mercer is playing well too, winning 11 of its last 13. However, Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae will be too much for the Bears to handle, and the Volunteers will continue to roll.

    Predicted Score: Tennessee 74, Mercer 61

First Round: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Northeastern

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    Alabama found a way to go 12-6 in SEC play, but its statsheet is probably sad enough to make some devoted fans cry themselves to sleep.

    Led by the Terrible Trevors (Lacey and Releford), the Crimson Tide have rolled into the NIT and will be looking to defy their pitiful stats to make a lengthy run in the tournament.

    Alabama will host a Northeastern team that got into the NIT with an automatic bid, but Joel Smith and Jonathan Lee will struggle against an Alabama team that got snubbed and will be looking for revenge.

    Predicted Score: Alabama 79, Northeastern 59

First Round: No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 5 Stephen F. Austin

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    Dwight Powell, Chasson Randle and Josh Huestis led the Cardinal to the NIT after going 9-9 in conference play.

    These three guys combine for 40.1 points per game and are major contributors in terms of rebounds and assists as well. They will be the difference-makers in this game.

    Stephen F. Austin had an incredible season, going 27-4 and beating Oklahoma, who earned a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament.

    The Lumberjacks are extremely talented, but Stanford won the NIT last year and has much more experience in postseason play, giving the Cardinal a clear edge.

    Predicted Score: Stanford 69, Stephen F. Austin 64

First Round: No. 3 Denver vs. No. 6 Ohio

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    Neither team can rebound. Both teams love to pass.

    Should be an exciting game.

    Denver and Ohio both have postseason experience after playing in last year's NCAA tournament, but the difference is that the Bobcats made a spectacular run and they return star guard D.J. Cooper.

    These two teams match up nicely, as they are both quick, athletic teams who rely heavily on guards and wings, and very little on true bigs.

    I have to give Ohio the edge with Cooper teaching the team's younger players and helping to develop them, although Denver will push this game into overtime.

    Predicted Score: Ohio 77. Denver 72 (OT)

First Round: No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 7 Niagara

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    Maryland fell just short of making the NCAA tournament, but Alex Len, Dez Wells and the Terrapins will be fighting for an NIT crown.

    Len, the seven-footer, will be key for the Terps as he gives an inside presence that few teams in the field have. He will be complemented with athletic wings like Wells and Nick Faust.

    Two wins over Duke might not have earned an at-large bid, but it certainly helped Maryland develop into a talented team and now it will compete for a trophy.

    Niagara simply won't be able to handle Len inside, as he has a five-inch advantage over Niagara's tallest players. Antoine Mason and Juan'ya Green might have succeeded in the MAAC, but they won't be as efficient against the Terps.

    Predicted Score: Maryland 71, Niagara 61

First Round: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 8 Norfolk State

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    Virginia is an enigma.

    The Cavaliers' top scorers are also the team's top rebounders, but you could hardly call their frontcourt a strength, considering that they rank 276th in rebounds per game. They've also beaten Maryland twice, Duke and North Carolina, but they've lost to Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Clemson and Boston College.

    Virginia is a tough team to expect anything from, but I think it's safe to say that they will be able to avoid another earth-shattering upset from Norfolk State.

    The Spartans were able to dominate the MEAC again this year, going 16-0 before losing in the conference tournament. However, the team went 5-11 in nonconference play and fell to every team that was even comparable to Virginia.

    Predicted Score: Virginia 82, Norfolk State 64

First Round: No. 4 St. Joseph's vs. No. 5 St. John's

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    The Hawks' marquee victory this season came against No. 20 Notre Dame in the beginning of the season, but even so the team is 1-5 against Top 25 opponents this season.

    St. Joseph's finished 8-8 in the Atlantic 10 despite a relatively easy conference schedule, playing Saint Louis, VCU, Butler and Temple only once each during the regular season.

    Few teams fell flat on their faces like St. John's did this year. After starting the Big East portion of their schedule with an early five-game winning streak, the team lost its last five and seven of its last eight games to fall far, far down to the NIT.

    Expect the Hawks to keep the Red Storm down, as the team from Philly defends its home court.

    Predicted Score: St. Joseph's 64, St. John's 58

First Round: No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 6 Indiana State

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    The Hawkeyes lost to a talented Wichita State team and a Virginia Tech team that was on fire, but went otherwise unscathed through their nonconference schedule.

    Playing its fellow Big Ten schools hurt Iowa, which went 9-9 and lost to six ranked teams and Wisconsin. Going 9-9 against the best teams in the country just wasn't enough in the selection committee's mind, but Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White will look to prove that Iowa has been underrated all year.

    Indiana State has been hit or miss all season, beating teams like Miami, No. 15 Wichita State and No. 16 Creighton, but also losing to Morehead State and Southern Illinois.

    The Sycamores don't jump off the page in terms of stats, but junior point guard Jake Odum will look to take this team on a wild ride.

    While I'd love to see Indiana State make a Cinderella run, Iowa is a talented team that has played against great teams and will be able to handle the Sycamores.

    Predicted Score: Iowa 69, Indiana State 62

First Round: No. 2 Massachusetts vs. No. 7 Stony Brook

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    UMass likely came up one win short of making it into the field of 68, as beating VCU in the A-10 tournament would have propelled the team into the Big Dance.

    However, Chaz Williams and Co. will look to rise to the occasion and make a deep run in the NIT. With Williams' 15.9 points and 7.4 assists per game leading a talented team, the Minutemen will be a tough out.

    Stony Brook dominated the America East Conference, but UMass is still stinging from being snubbed and the Minutemen are going to take it out on the Seawolves.

    Predicted Score: Massachusetts 80, Stony Brook 59

Second Round: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 4 Providence

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    This game is going to come down to whether or not Providence can keep Kentucky out of the lane.

    Willie Cauley-Stein is a big man who can dominate the paint, but Kentucky can also rely on Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress to attack the basket and score easy points.

    I can't see Kadeem Batts holding down the paint on his own, and Kentucky will win this game in a dogfight.

    Predicted Score: Kentucky 70, Providence 65

Second Round: No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 3 Arizona State

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    This game is all about Arizona State's Jahii Carson.

    Carson is a freak of an athlete and is arguably the best freshman in the country. He's hot too, averaging 23 points per game in his last five.

    While Baylor should win this game, the Bears have found new and exciting ways to let fans down all year, and the team doesn't have anyone who can match up with Carson and get the better of him.

    Predicted Score: Arizona State 77, Baylor 71

Second Round: No. 1 Southern Miss. vs. No. 4 Florida State

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    I went out on a limb to take the Seminoles in the first round, but now that they will be away from home you can expect them to revert back to the team that lost to Mercer and Southern Alabama this year.

    Southern Miss. has been tested over and over, but the Golden Eagles don't break against lesser opponents and they will roll to the Elite Eight in this one.

    Predicted Score: Southern Miss. 74, Florida State 60

Second Round: No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 6 Washington

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    Tennessee has to be salivating at the thought of its matchup with No. 6 Washington instead of No. 3 BYU.

    Washington is hot, but the Huskies aren't hotter than the Volunteers, and they will also struggle with Jarnell Stokes inside and the emergence of Jordan McRae.

    It won't exactly be a walk in the park, but Tennessee will win this game comfortably.

    Predicted Score: Tennessee 68, Washington 62

Second Round: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Stanford

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    I'm not a huge fan of Stanford right now. After losing five of its last eight, the team will have barely escaped Stephen F. Austin because the Lumberjacks have yet to play a talented team, but the Cardinal will struggle with Alabama.

    Trevor Releford and Trevor Lacey are outstanding players with the potential to irritate Stanford on the when on the offensive end, as they work well together and can put up a ton of points.

    After struggling against the Pac-12 down the stretch, Stanford will have serious problems against Alabama.

    Predicted Score: Alabama 68, Stanford 59

Second Round: No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 6 Ohio

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    Alex Len will have a huge size advantage inside once again in this game, but the key will be Maryland's ability to stymie D.J. Cooper and Ohio's backcourt.

    Maryland's arsenal of athletic, disruptive guards and wings will match up perfectly against Ohio. That leaves Len as the difference-maker inside, and he will take full advantage.

    Maryland proved that it can defend on the perimeter by forcing Duke into bad shots from three, and I expect the same thing to happen against the Bobcats.

    Predicted Score: Maryland 73, Ohio 64

Second Round: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 St. Joseph's

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    Virginia will be the first No. 1 seed to go down in the NIT, as St. Joseph's will be able to pull off the upset.

    Virginia is hit or miss, but the Cavaliers have struggled against teams like the Hawks, and March Madness will get the better of Virginia here.

    Look for Carl Jones and Langston Galloway to carry the Hawks to victory.

    Predicted Score: St. Joseph's 68, Virginia 59

Second Round: No. 2 Massachusetts vs. No. 3 Iowa

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    UMass and Iowa are similarly hot right now, with both going on small runs before the start of the NIT. However, the difference is the level of talent that the teams were facing during their respective runs.

    The Minutemen were able to hold off A-10 teams, with Temple being their best win during the stretch before going down hard at the hands of VCU.

    The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, competed in the toughest conference in the nation and went .500, so you can bet that Iowa will be more prepared for this game than UMass.

    Predicted Score: Iowa 72, Massachusetts 69

Quarterfinals: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Arizona State

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    Once again, this game comes down to Jahii Carson—but not in the way you'd expect.

    Where Carson could dominate in the first two rounds, he will not be able to take over against Kentucky, forcing his teammates to step up.

    Guys like Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress are athletic enough to hang with Carson, and Poythress especially has the size and skill to shut him down.

    Without Carson, ASU is a weak team and Kentucky will advance once again.

    Predicted Score: Kentucky 73, Arizona State 65

Quarterfinals: No. 1 Southern Miss. vs. No. 2 Tennessee

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    If you haven't been able to tell from Tennessee's first two games, Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae are both talented and hot right now.

    The Volunteers have the firepower to pull off the minor upset over No. 1 Southern Miss., and they resemble Memphis to an extent.

    Southern Miss. lost three times to Memphis, and if Tennessee replicates the Tigers' style we could see Southern Miss. fall in the quarterfinals.

    Predicted Score: Tennessee 72, Southern Miss. 70

Quarterfinals: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Maryland

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    Alabama has shown that its more than a statsheet, but I see the team's inefficient play catching up to it against a tough Maryland team.

    Maryland played tough, gutsy basketball in the ACC tournament, and with a couple of wins under its belt the team will continue to roll and stay hot.

    Maryland has the athletes to shut down the Terrible Trevors and the scoring production to expose Alabama's weaknesses on defense.

    It won't be easy, but Maryland should be able to take this contest.

    Predicted Score: Maryland 65, Alabama 64

Quarterfinals: No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 4 St. Joseph's

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    After both teams played exciting games in the second round, I see this being a poor matchup.

    While there are stars on both sides of the ball, Iowa has advanced this far because it is used to tough opponents, whereas St. Joseph's took down an overrated Virginia team.

    This game will come down to the fact that Iowa is a much better rebounding team and is much more physical, which will lead to the Hawkeyes winning an ugly contest.

    Predicted Score: Iowa 62, St. Joseph's 56

Semifinals: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Tennessee

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    Tennessee will finally meet its match at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats.

    With athletic big men like Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress keeping Jarnell Stokes down and lengthy guards like Archie Goodwin taking Jordan McRae out of the equation, Tennessee will struggle to keep up with Kentucky.

    We've seen these two teams match up twice already, with the home team winning both games. However, Kentucky is the more talented team and it will find a way to win in a nail-biter.

    Predicted Score: Kentucky 68, Tennessee 65

Semifinals: No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 3 Iowa

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    In a game that will absolutely come down to the wire, Maryland will stop Iowa on the final possession of the game to win.

    OK, so I can't tell you that that is exactly what will happen, but this game will come down to the final 30 seconds.

    Maryland and Iowa are both playing relatively well and have played against tough opponents. They've both led exciting charges to the quarterfinals, but this game will come down to Maryland's athleticism.

    The Terps are simply long and fast enough to run over the Hawkeyes, whose Big Ten style of play is too slow and allows Alex Len to impact the game on defense too often.

    Predicted Score: Maryland 71, Iowa 69

Final: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Maryland

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    John Calipari coached Kentucky to an NCAA tournament championship last year and he'll hoist another trophy this year. While it's the NIT trophy instead of that of the NCAA one, it will be a solid consolation prize.

    Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein is big enough to stop Alex Len and athletic enough to disrupt his game.

    Kentucky is even more athletic than Maryland on the perimeter and also has more size.

    Kentucky has a coach who is used to winning and will prepare his guys, while Mark Turgeon has not had the same experience.

    We saw these two teams match up earlier in the year and Kentucky came away with a victory then too. Now the Wildcats will win without Nerlens Noel to win the NIT and end a poor season on the right note.

    Predicted Score: Kentucky 68, Maryland 62