NIT Tournament 2013: Power Ranking Title Hopefuls Heading into Quarterfinals

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2013

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 28:  Joe Harris #12, Justin Anderson #23 and Teven Jones #5 of the Virginia Cavaliers celebrate following a victory against the Duke Blue Devils at John Paul Jones Arena on February 28, 2013 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Virginia defeated Duke 73-68. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

Midway through the second round of a wild NIT, a clear pecking order of contenders has emerged.

An entertaining and competitive quarterfinals is coming into view as these teams battle for the right to make a trip to Madison Square Garden for the Final Four.  

Feel free to check out the full NIT bracket on, and also the top three contenders to emerge as 2013 NIT champions. 

No. 3: Baylor

The Baylor Bears finished the season with the nation's 31st most prolific scoring offense, and they have been flexing that explosive offense in the first two rounds of the NIT. 

The Bears easily downed Long Beach State 112-66 in the tourney opener, and then moved on to outscore an impressive Arizona State team, 89-86. 

The Bears have been led all year by senior guard Pierre Jackson. He averaged 19.7 points and 6.7 assists per game on the season.

He then came up huge when the Bears needed him most as he went for 26 points and 16 assists against ASU.

With the Bears' offense rolling, this team has a great chance to win it all. 


No. 2: Maryland

Maryland is rolling. Going back to the ACC tournament, the Terps have won four of five games. That includes a dominant win over a powerful Duke team, and a narrow loss to a Tar Heels team that advanced to the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. 

Maryland opened up the NIT with a dominant win over Niagara and then flashed its resiliency in a comeback win over Denver in the second round.

Dez Wells led this team in scoring during the season, and he has been leading the way in tournament play. He came up huge down the stretch against Denver as the Terps completed their comeback and wound up with 19 points.

This is a confident group, but should the Terps wind up playing this next team, even their recent success might not be enough to quell the question marks in their ability to win. 


No. 1: Virginia

The top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers have opened up the NIT in impressive fashion. They took down Norfolk State, 67-56, in the opener and then St. John's 68-50.

As you probably deduced from the scores, the Cavaliers can play defense, and they have been all season—Virginia ranks 18th in the nation in defensive efficiency.

This is not to suggest that the Cavaliers are without offense. With a scorer like junior guard Joe Harris, the Cavaliers can score points in a hurry. 

Harris has scored just 19 points in this tournament so far, but it's not like the Cavs have needed much from him, and for the season, he averaged 16.7 points per game. 

Virginia also has a nice mental edge over Maryland. It went 2-0 in the two matchups between the two ACC schools this season. The Cavaliers took the first one, in Maryland, 80-69, and then the second in a hard-fought 61-58 overtime battle. 

The Cavaliers are definitely the team to beat at the 2013 NIT.