The four remaining schools competing for the 76th NIT championship have made it to New York City where the Madison Square Garden stage is grand and the lights are hot—more importantly—the caliber of play is sure to match that of an NCAA Final Four.
BYU squares off against Baylor for the second time in three months, while Iowa takes on the soon-to-be Big Ten school Maryland.
These schools are bringing NCAA tournament swagger into the "Worlds Most Famous Arena" Tuesday night.
BYU had made six NCAA tournament appearances in a row (2007-2012), while Baylor was in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament last year.
Maryland has been a staple in the NCAA tournament for decades—winning a National Championship in 2002, while Iowa has advanced to the NCAA tournament 22 times and the Final Four three times.
7:00 p.m. (EST) Semifinal—BYU Cougars vs. Baylor Bears
While BYU leads the overall series with Baylor 5-4, Cougars coach Dave Rose talked about the obstacle that Baylor poses for his team.
We're excited about the opportunity tomorrow night. No so excited about playing Baylor. We played Baylor back in December and they kind of handled us, but our guys do know the challenge.
We understand that we're playing a very talented team, a very hot team, a team that's on a roll. Our challenge will be to control Pierre Jackson, which we did not do very well the first time. We look forward to the opportunity tomorrow night.
BYU lost that night back in December 79-64 at Baylor. In three games so far in the NIT, Jackson has averaged 19.0 points and 2.0 steals a game and leads all players with a whopping 35 assists.
BYU has their own offensive threat in Tyler Haws, who in three games is leading the tournament with an average of 28.7 points a game.
This game will feature a scintillating pace, and while BYU gets its rematch, Rose and the Cougars will have to be nearly perfect if they want to stop a red hot Baylor squad.
9:00 p.m. (EST) Semifinal—Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Maryland Terrapins
Iowa rolls into the Mecca of basketball winning 10 of its last 13 games and doing so by an average of 13.2 points per game.
Even though the last time these two schools met was in 1999, Maryland holds a 2-0 series advantage, with one of those victories coming at a neutral site.
Maryland is also set to join the Big Ten next year, so count on Iowa to be hellbent on handing them a loss as an early welcome present.
This game has the makings of a dog fight, but something's gotta give.
The Terps have won 25 games in a season for the ninth time in school history, but they appreciate the opportunity they have to play the Hawkeyes Tuesday night, as coach Mark Turgeon talked about it being a tough road to get here.
About mid-February I didn't know if we were ever going to figure it out, and then we hit rock bottom at Georgia Tech, and since then our kids have been great. They have embraced this. We're excited.
We feel like we're playing our best basketball of the season here late, and have a great team—a fun team to coach and a fun team to be around. Got a little injury to Seth Allen which has set us back a little, but guys have stepped up. So, we're happy to be in New York.
Turgeon, who coached Wichita State from 2000-2007, probably wishes he was doing its press conference for the Final Four, but instead his focus was on his Terps preparing for the NIT semifinals.
Iowa, on the other hand, is riding a tidal wave into New York after knocking off No. 1 seed Virginia with a stellar display of defense—forcing 16 turnovers.
The Hawkeyes also have the second highest scorer of the NIT in Roy Devyn Marble, who is averaging 25.3 points per contest. He's been Iowa's key contributor with 16 assists over the three games.
This game will be a dandy.
The 76th NIT Champion is anyone's guess as this point, but both semifinals are primed to put on a show.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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