The Preseason NIT is usually one of the top college basketball tournaments of the early part of the season, and the 2013 version is no different.
Duke and Arizona highlight a field of 16 teams, all trying to make their way to at least the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City. For a few teams, nothing short of a championship will be enough.
One thing that separates this event from others is the fact that it is a true knockout tournament. While there are likely many Blue Devils fans who have already bought tickets for New York City, a loss to any teams in the preliminary stage would knock the squad out of the event.
This means that even Stillman College has a chance of going the distance in this classic championship.
Here is a look at all you need to know about the exciting tournament.
When: Nov. 18 - Nov. 29
TV: ESPN Family of Networks
Live Stream: ESPN3
|West (Tuscon, Ariz.)||North (Piscataway, N.J.)||South (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)||East (Durham, N.C.)|
|Fairleigh Dickenson||Canisius||Stillman College||UNC Asheville|
|Rhode Island||Elon||Georgia State||East Carolina|
|Metro State||Drexel||McNeese State||Norfolk State|
|NIT Season Tip-Off Schedule|
|Nov. 18||Rhode Island def. Metro State (66-63)||McKale Memorial Center||8 p.m.||-|
|Nov. 18||Arizona def. Fairleigh Dickenson (100-50)||McKale Memorial Center||11 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Nov. 19||Consolation: Fairleigh Dickenson vs. Metro State||McKale Memorial Center||8 p.m.||-|
|Nov. 19||Championship: Arizona vs. Rhode Island||McKale Memorial Center||11 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Nov. 18||Drexel def. Elon (71-64)||Rutgers Athletic Center||5 p.m.||-|
|Nov. 18||Rutgers def. Canisius (66-51)||Rutgers Athletic Center||7:30 p.m.||ESPN3|
|Nov. 19||Consolation: Canisius vs. Elon||Rutgers Athletic Center||5 p.m.||-|
|Nov. 19||Championship: Drexel vs. Rutgers||Rutgers Athletic Center||7:30 p.m.||ESPN3|
|Nov. 18||Georgia State def. McNeese State (96-70)||Coleman Coliseum||5:30 p.m.||-|
|Nov. 18||Alabama def. Stillman College (102-65)||Coleman Coliseum||8 p.m.||ESPN3|
|Nov. 19||Consolation: McNeese State vs. Stillman College||Coleman Coliseum||5:30 p.m.||-|
|Nov. 19||Championship: Alabama vs. Georgia State||Coleman Coliseum||8 p.m.||ESPN3|
|Nov. 18||Duke def. UNC Asheville (91-55)||Cameron Indoor Stadium||7 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Nov. 18||East Carolina def. Norfolk State (76-74)||Cameron Indoor Stadium||9:30 p.m||-|
|Nov. 19||Consolation: Norfolk State vs. UNC Asheville||Cameron Indoor Stadium||8:30 p.m.||-|
|Nov. 19||Championship: Duke vs. East Carolina||Cameron Indoor Stadium||6 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Nov. 27||First Semifinal||Madison Square Garden||7 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Nov. 27||Second Semifinal||Madison Square Garden||9:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Nov. 29||Consolation||Madison Square Garden||3:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Nov. 29||Championship||Madison Square Garden||6 p.m.||ESPN|
Top Teams to Watch
Even in a loss to Kansas, Duke proved how good it was in the Champions Classic. Freshman Jabari Parker looks like a star in the making, while Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon provide additional scoring on the perimeter.
As usual, the Blue Devils will spread teams out on offense and knock down shots consistently from the outside. Considering at least four players on the court at any time would be considered above-average shooters, this makes the team nearly impossible to guard.
The only question going forward with this team is how they will fare with bigger opponents. Kansas dominated Duke on the boards, and the frontcourt players were able to score all day long inside.
If Amile Jefferson and others cannot make up for this weakness on the inside, it could lead to trouble.
While Duke is getting a lot of publicity for its freshman, Arizona also has a young player out to prove he is among the best in the country in Aaron Gordon. The athletic forward already has two double-doubles in three games and can throw down a highlight-reel dunk at any time.
Of course, the Wildcats also have a great deal of balance on the offensive end. Nick Johnson is becoming a go-to scorer, but Brandon Ashely and Kaleb Tarczewski will be expected to contribute as well all season long.
Meanwhile, Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is showing that he can be the pass-first point guard that the team needs.
Consistency is a bit of a problem for a team that already had close calls against Cal Poly and San Diego State, but Arizona is clearly one of the top contenders for a national championship this season.
A year after missing out on the NCAA tournament due to a weak schedule, Alabama has challenged itself this season with two tough opening games against Big 12 opponents.
The Crimson Tide were unable to defeat Oklahoma but bounced back well against Texas Tech to sit at 1-1 on the year.
Trevor Releford comes into the year as one of the most underrated players in the country, possessing elite scoring ability despite a small stature. He can shoot the lights out from behind the arc, as well as drive into the lane if the defender is playing too close.
This tournament gives Alabama the chance to showcase its ability on a national stage against top teams. If the Tide are successful here, they will not be worrying about the bubble come March.
Even though Drexel has to play at Rutgers, there is a decent chance this CAA school can play its way into the semifinals.
Chris Fouch leads the way after 26 points in a win over Illinois State, although there is a lot of balance on this squad. Big men Kazembe Abif and Dartaye Ruffin can rebound with the best in the country, and it helped the team stay within five points of UCLA in the first game of the year.
While Rutgers star Kadeem Mack is in the midst of a breakout season to lead the Scarlet Knights, they cannot look ahead in the regional round. Otherwise, it will be Drexel making the trip to New York City instead.
Predicted Winner: Duke
Tournament organizers are certainly hoping for a battle between Duke and Arizona in the finals. Not only are these two of the best programs in college basketball, but they are also two of the top teams this season with loads of NBA talent.
Fortunately, everyone should get their wish as these squads cruise to the finals over inferior competition.
Once they get there, Duke will have the advantage due to the team's elite offensive ability. Parker gives the squad a great deal of versatility, but he cannot be double-teamed or else someone else will be wide open on the perimeter.
Arizona will keep the game close, but the Wildcats will suffer their first loss of the year at the hands of the Blue Devils.
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