The 2013 NIT will not get the mainstream publicity that the NCAA tourney gets from the college basketball world, but a strong Day 1 full of surprise final scores has set the stage for a few Cinderella teams to make a run.
These teams are trying to send the NCAA a message.
All of the following programs are still being underrated in the NIT despite victories, but these underdogs will not go quietly into that good night.
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No. 8 Robert Morris Colonials
After being snubbed from the NCAA tournament, the college basketball world wrote the No. 1 overall Kentucky Wildcats (21-12) off as NIT champions.
The problem? The No. 8 Robert Morris Colonials (24-10) never got the memo.
The Colonials stunned the Wildcats on Day 1 by beating Kentucky 59-57 and sending the tournament favorites home early. Now Robert Morris must use that momentum to carry itself through the next round.
Led by the breakout offensive game from forward Lucky Jones (15 points in just 18 minutes) and the Colonials' attacking style of defense, Robert Morris forced 14 Kentucky turnovers—including seven steals—and suffocated the undermanned Wildcats.
Expect the Colonials to continue their run toward NIT glory.
No. 5 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
While the No. 4 Florida State Seminoles (18-16) had a higher seed than the No. 5 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (27-6) in their matchup, there was no questioning which team was the more gifted on Tuesday.
The Bulldogs beat the Seminoles 71-66 in a battle that featured a first-half feeling-out process, followed by an offensive explosion in the second half from both teams. While neither team topped 30 points by halftime, Louisiana Tech’s 47 points and FSU’s 38 in the second half made the latter stages of this game very interesting.
After such a fast-paced game, it’s clear how the Bulldogs average 73.3 points per game this season (44th in the nation), especially with a star like guard Raheem Appleby going off for 27 points against the Seminoles.
If Appleby and the entire Louisiana Tech team can continue to play smart and efficient basketball, the Bulldogs have the raw talent to win the entire NIT.
No. 5 St. John's Red Storm
In the most exciting game of the NIT tournament so far, the No. 5 St. John's Red Storm (17-15) stunned the No. 4 Saint Joseph's Hawks (18-14) by a score of 63-61.
It was a last-second shot from St. John's Sir'Dominic Pointer that broke the tie and gave the Red Storm the first-round victory, but the momentum created on the play could be enough to carry the team deep into the NIT tournament.
St. John's is one of the deeper teams in the tournament—boasting two players off the bench that can play for 30 minutes a game (Phil Greene and Chris Obekpa)—and as the NIT drags on, the freshness of the Red Storm rotation will put the team’s opponents on their heels.
The Red Storm are a serious sleeper in the NIT.
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