NIT 2013 Bracket: Projections for Every First-Round Game

Josh SchochAnalyst IIIMarch 18, 2013

NIT 2013 Bracket: Projections for Every First-Round Game

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    The NIT is considered a lesser tournament, but it brings with it some intense basketball.

    The teams who just missed out on the 37 at-large bids are grouped together in a 32-team tournament without as many automatic bids, leading to closer first round games.

    Speaking of the first round of the NIT, let's take a look at the first 16 games of the tournament.

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Robert Morris

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    After being snubbed from the NCAA tournament, Kentucky received a No. 1 seed in the NIT and is one of the early favorites to win it all.

    The Wildcats are led by three talented freshmen in Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. These three are long, athletic players who will give Robert Morris fits.

    With Rupp Arena being occupied by the NCAA tournament, this game will be played at Robert Morris, and playing at home gives Karvel Anderson and Lucky Jones a huge boost.

    However, the Wildcats just have too much talent to lose this game, and they will win comfortably.

    Predicted Score: Kentucky 79, Robert Morris 69

No. 4 Providence vs. No. 5 Charlotte

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    Providence's late stretch of 7-1 basketball against Big East opponents proved that the Friars are hot, and Bryce Cotton, Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton have given this team new life.

    The Friars run into a Charlotte team that started the year 9-0 before finally losing against Miami. The 49ers finished as a middle of the pack team in the A-10, but they had very few bad losses.

    This game is going to come down to the fact that Providence is home, where the Friars are 7-0 against nonconference opponents. Charlotte struggles away from home, going sub-.500 when on the road this year.

    Prediction: Providence 68, Charlotte 64

No. 3 Arizona State vs. No. 6 Detroit

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    If you have not yet had the pleasure of watching Arizona State's freshman phenom, Jahii Carson, then mark your calendars for when Arizona State hosts Detroit.

    Carson is an electric player, and he has been hot as of late, averaging 23.0 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game in his last five contests.

    Detroit has a superstar of its own in junior guard Ray McCallum, who leads the team in points (18.8) and assists (4.5) per game and is second on the team in rebounds (5.2).

    Carson and McCallum will go back and forth in this game, but I expect the freshman to dominate the NIT and lead the Sun Devils to at least the quarterfinals.

    Predicted Score: Arizona State 76, Detroit 68

No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 7 Long Beach State

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    Long Beach State earned an automatic bid to the NIT, but the 49ers won't be around for long, as they face a talented, athletic Baylor team.

    Long Beach State simply has no one who can guard point guard Pierre Jackson because he is too quick. The team doesn't have the height and versatility to defend seven-foot freshman Isaiah Austin, who can also spot up from three, either.

    Baylor is a mismatch nightmare for the 49ers, and they are going to be blown away by the Bears.

    Predicted Score: Baylor 76, Long Beach State 60

No. 1 Southern Miss. vs. No. 8 Charleston Southern

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    Southern Miss only lost twice in Conference USA play...if you don't count the team's three losses to Memphis.

    The Tigers were simply head and shoulders above the rest of the conference, but Southern Miss finished in second.

    The Golden Eagles, led by Dwayne Davis, have a lot of potential in the NIT, and after being snubbed from the NCAA tournament, the team will be looking to take out its frustration on a lowly Charleston Southern team.

    Sorry Buccaneers, you're in serious trouble.

    Predicted Score: Southern Miss. 76, Charleston Southern 58

No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 5 Louisiana Tech

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    The Seminoles are finally starting to play solid basketball, but now Florida State takes on an angry Louisiana Tech team.

    Tech is the team to watch in this one, as the team has lost three straight games by an average of 16 points after winning 18 straight.

    The Bulldogs could either be angry and channel that into the game against Florida State, or the team could be collapsing and will be destroyed in Tallahassee.

    I'm going to take the middle ground of those two options, as I expect the Bulldogs to put up a fight, but Michael Snaer will be too much for them to handle.

    Predicted Score: Florida State 72, Louisiana Tech 65

No. 3 BYU vs. No. 6 Washington

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    Tyler Haws' 20.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game make him one of the stars of this tournament, but his BYU Cougars will come up short against Scott Suggs and Washington.

    Suggs has been averaging 18 points per game in his last six contests, during which time the team has gone 4-2, losing to No. 23 UCLA and Oregon in overtime.

    Suggs almost led the Huskies to the NCAA tournament, but now he will lead them to an upset in the NIT.

    Predicted Score: Washington 67, BYU 65

No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 7 Mercer

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    Jarnell Stokes has been a dominant force in the college game since he started playing, and he and Jordan McRae will lead the Tennessee Volunteers to a home win over No. 7 Mercer.

    Mercer is only in the NIT because it received an automatic bid, and now the Volunteers will put the Bears in their place, led by Stokes and McRae.

    Predicted Score: Tennessee 74, Mercer 61

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Northeastern

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    The Terrible Trevors (Lacey and Releford) have led Alabama to a No. 1 seed in the NIT, and now they will look for a championship.

    The Crimson Tide's road will go through Northeastern in the first round, who clinched with an automatic bid.

    Joel Smith and Jonathan Lee led Northeastern to a great regular season, but now that it's tournament time they will be overwhelmed by Alabama.

    Predicted Score: Alabama 79, Northeastern 59

No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 5 Stephen F. Austin

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    Stephen F. Austin may have gone 27-4 in the regular season, but the Lumberjacks played an incredibly easy schedule.

    The team was good enough to earn an at-large bid to the NIT, but don't expect Stanford to let it advance to the second round.

    Dwight Powell, Chasson Randle and Josh Huestis combine for 40.1 points per game, and they will put up enough points to get the W.

    Predicted Score: Stanford 69, Stephen F. Austin 64

No. 3 Denver vs. No. 6 Ohio

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    This game will be highlighted by excellent guard play but pitiful performances up front.

    Led by D.J. Cooper's experience and skill, the Bobcats of Ohio are poised to pull off the upset over Denver.

    While the Pioneers won't go quietly, Ohio has proven that it is able to pull off upsets in March, and it will get another in the NIT.

    Predicted Score: Ohio 77, Denver 72 (OT)

No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 7 Niagara

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    Alex Len is a 7'1", 255-pound beast of a center, and he has five inches on every player on Niagara.

    Couple Len inside with Dez Wells and Nick Faust's athleticism on the perimeter and Maryland looks like a tough out.

    Niagara simply doesn't have the talent to compete with Maryland and will suffer the same fate as many automatic qualifiers.

    Predicted Score: Maryland 75, Niagara 56

No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 8 Norfolk State

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    Virginia is a hit-or-miss team. You never know if the Cavaliers will play lights out or play like a D-III squad.

    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.

    It's tough to make predictions with the Cavaliers involved, but I think it's safe to say that Norfolk State will not be pulling off another huge upset.

    Predicted Score: Virginia 82, Norfolk State 64

No. 4 Saint Joseph's vs. No. 5 St. John's

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    Saint Joseph's might not be the best team in the bracket by any stretch of the imagination, but it's certainly the best team in this game.

    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.

    Now the Hawks have an easy matchup against the Red Storm, and I'm taking the team from Philly.

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

No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 6 Indiana State

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    Iowa lost only twice during its nonconference schedule, losing to a tough Wichita State team and a Virginia Tech team that was on fire.

    However, the Hawkeyes didn't lose at home when they weren't facing a Big Ten opponent, and Indiana State fits that bill.

    While the Sycamores were able to take down Miami early in the season, they won't be able to handle a tested Iowa team that will win this game easily.

    Predicted Score: Iowa 69, Indiana State 62

No. 2 Massachusetts vs. No. 7 Stony Brook

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    UMass was snubbed from the NCAA tournament, and now the Minutemen are looking to take out their frustration on a lowly Stony Brook team.

    The Seawolves had a solid regular season, but they simply do not have the firepower to match up with UMass.

    Chaz Williams and Co. are just too good. With Williams' 15.9 points and 7.4 assists per game leading the team, the Minutemen will be a tough out.

    Predicted Score: Massachusetts 80, Stony Brook 59