With all eyes turning to the 2013 NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 showdowns, set to begin on Thursday evening, the quarterfinals of the 2013 National Invitation Tournament are flying under the radar as the lesser-known postseason event gets set to shift to the Big Apple next week.
The 32-team field has been trimmed to eight, but there will only be four left standing after Wednesday.
Below we'll project which four teams are poised to reach the NIT semifinals in New York this spring.
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Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama will host Maryland on Tuesday night in a matchup that the Crimson Tide are expected to win. Covers.com has made Trevor Releford and company four-point favorites at home and it's hard to disagree.
This is a team that hasn't lost inside Coleman Coliseum since Dec. 30 when it was upset by Tulane. Since the start of January, Alabama has defeated talented SEC clubs like Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas in Tuscaloosa, running its impressive home winning streak to 12 in a row.
Plus, Maryland is just 3-6 on the road this season, including loses suffered at Georgia Tech and Boston College.
Home-court advantage is unique to the NIT, and I like Alabama and a few other teams to benefit from it en route to Madison Square Garden this March.
The Big 12's Baylor Bears will host the surprising Providence Friars on Wednesday night. A No. 4 seed, Providence is the lowest seed left in the NIT after knocking off eighth-seeded Robert Morris on Monday.
But don't expect the Friars to advance to the semifinals by way of Waco, Texas. After all, Baylor has won three straight at home and even drubbed Kansas by 23 points at the Ferrell Center this March.
Led by senior Pierre Jackson's 11 assists per game this postseason, the Bears are moving the ball well and scoring tons of points (100.5 points per game this postseason). Baylor posted 60 in the second half against Arizona State on Friday night, and will be almost impossible to slow down again on Wednesday.
Led by sensational sophomore Tyler Haws, who is averaging 30.5 points per game in the NIT this March, BYU has a great shot to upend top seed Southern Miss on the road Wednesday.
The Cougars have looked like a determined basketball team this postseason, scoring 90 points in each of their two NIT victories and winning by 15 points on average. Although the Golden Eagles will have an advantage playing at Reed Green Coliseum, they don't possess a go-to scorer quite as talented and explosive as Haws.
Behind another dominant performance from the 6'5" guard, this time on the road, I like the third-seeded Cougars to be the only road team that wins its quarterfinal matchup, booking a trip to Madison Square Garden where they'll likely take on Baylor in the semifinals.
Virginia may have been snubbed from the NCAA tournament, but it can earn a trip to the Final Four of the NIT with a win over Iowa on Wednesday night. The Cavaliers will host the Hawkeyes inside John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, where they blew out St. John's by 18 points on Sunday.
Which No. 1 seed has the best shot to win the 2013 NIT?
Tony Bennett's squad has won 19 straight home games this season and even knocked off NCAA tournament teams North Carolina, NC State and Duke there this year.
Led by juniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, look for the Cavs to overwhelm the Hawkeyes on the East Coast on Wednesday to advance to Madison Square Garden for next week's NIT semifinals.
The case can be made that Virginia should have been playing for a national championship this March, and they can cement that argument with a different championship this spring.
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