While the 2013 NCAA Tournament has reached the stage of the Final Four, the National Invitation Tournament is already at its championship game. After four rounds of grueling action, the Baylor Bears of the Big 12 and Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big Ten have emerged as finalists.
The question is, which players have the most to gain in the NIT championship game?
There are numerous players involved in the NIT championship with NBA potential. There are also players who could set the stage for a bright 2013-14 campaign with a high-quality performance during this game.
Regardless of what they're looking to impact, there is more than just a championship riding on this game.
Pierre Jackson, Baylor Bears
Pierre Jackson is one of the most polarizing point guard prospects in the 2013 NBA draft. As a 5'10" guard, there is reason to believe that Jackson is too small to perform at the next level.
With out-of-this-world leaping ability and superb instincts, Jackson may just have a future—the key is his ability to progress as a facilitator.
Fortunately for Jackson, he has been absolutely superb during the 2013 NIT. He's topped 20 points and 10 assists in each of his past three games, thus willing Baylor to their current stage.
For the tournament, Jackson is averaging 20.3 points, 11.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals—now, he has a national stage to make a statement.
Jackson's elite athletic gifts are well-documented, but questions have always been raised about his status as a true point guard. Although a capable scorer and valuable defender, Jackson had never put it all together.
With another world-class performance, Jackson could solidify his status as a second-round draft choice. With a dud of an outing, however, Jackson could be in danger of going undrafted, depending on which players declare themselves eligible.
This is a huge game for Jackson's career.
Cory Jefferson, Baylor Bears
On a national spectrum, Cory Jefferson is a virtual unknown. Despite possessing high-quality skills, Jefferson has gone from a role player to a key contributor to a squad that missed the NCAA Tournament.
With that being said, this kid can flat out play.
Only a junior, Jefferson can set the stage for a promising 2013-14 season or improve his 2013 draft stock. At 6'9", Jefferson rebounds well, blocks shots at a high rate and has developed his offensive game significantly since last season.
For statistical evidence, thus far in 2012-13, Jefferson is averaging 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
With that being said, Jefferson has been on an entirely different level during NIT play.
Thus far, Jefferson is averaging 20.8 points on 71.7 percent shooting from the floor. This type of offensive output has thrust Jefferson into conversations on draft boards.
The question is, can Jefferson improve upon his tournament mark of 5.8 rebounds per game to improve that stock?
Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa Hawkeyes
Throughout the 2012-13 season, swingman Roy Devyn Marble has displayed flashes of brilliance. The lanky perimeter player was doing it all for Iowa, contributing as a scorer, rebounder, facilitator and defender.
During the 2013 National Invitation Tournament, however, Marble has made a leap towards elite.
After four NIT games, Marble is averaging 24.3 points, 4.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. As the numbers might suggest, Marble has been one of the best players in the country during this tournament.
The question is simple—can he step up in that same manner during Iowa's biggest game of the season?
Marble has topped 20 points in each of his NIT games, which suggests he can keep it up. With that being said, he scored just eight points on 3-of-9 shooting during Iowa's 59-56 loss to Michigan State on Mar. 15.
Depending upon which Marble we see show up, a preseason conference All-American could be made during the NIT championship.