By the end of Wednesday, the first round of the 2013 NIT will be complete and the surviving teams will stand four victories away from the championship, which is the best possible consolation prize after failing to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
With some high-profile programs missing out on the Big Dance, the NIT received a boost this year. Adding even more depth to March Madness certainly doesn't hurt, and there's still a title on the line, even if it's not the one that everybody was chasing when the season began.
Let's examine some of the best matchups on tap for Wednesday night. For a complete look at the NIT schedule and results of games that have been completed, visit the NCAA's official site.
Indiana State at Iowa
Indiana State is an interesting team. The Sycamores have plenty of upside—as illustrated by their wins over Wichita State and Creighton—but they just weren't able to play at that level all season. Still, they are a dangerous squad if they get hot.
The Sycamores drew Iowa, one of the best teams that did not make it to the Big Dance. While the Hawkeyes feature two players that are capable of lighting up the scoreboard in Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White, they are a team built on strong defense.
Keep an eye on the pace of the game. The quicker the possessions, the larger the advantage will be for the Hawkeyes. They like to get out and run in order to put a lot of pressure on their opponents, and how Indiana State responds will decide the game.
Mercer at Tennessee
After a slow start, Mercer really elevated its level of play down the stretch. The Bears won 11 of their last 13 games but came up short in the Atlantic Sun championship game. Upsetting a big-name program like Tennessee would make up for that loss.
The Volunteers have been on a hot streak of their own, though. They have won nine of 11, including victories over Kentucky as well as national-title contender Florida. A true bubble team on Selection Sunday, it's key for them to overcome the disappointment of getting left out.
If they do that, Tennessee will be a very tough out. The trio of Jordan McRae, Jarnell Stokes and Trae Golden is as good as you can find in the NIT. They are capable of putting the team on their back and carrying the Vols all the way to an NIT championship.
Charlotte at Providence
The most impressive thing about Charlotte is its scoring depth. It has eight players that are averaging more than five points per game and three players with over 10 points per game, led by Chris Braswell. So even if one player is having an off night, there are plenty of players on the roster that can pick up the slack.
While the Friars are a more talented team overall, they are also more top heavy. They rely on Bryce Cotton to handle the perimeter scoring load, but the one area where they do have an advantage is in the paint, where Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton form a terrific one-two punch.
Providence will hold the advantage if all three of those stars are playing up to their usual standards. If any of them have an off night, however, Charlotte has enough scoring options to pull off the minor road upset. It should be a good battle.
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