NIT 2014 Bracket: Breaking Down Entire Field of 32

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2014

NIT 2014 Bracket: Breaking Down Entire Field of 32

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    Sarah Bentham/Associated Press

    Thirty-two teams will start action around the country this week in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

    Twenty-three of the 32 teams competing in this year’s bracket had at least 20 wins.

    While each of these programs were hoping for a different postseason experience, the matchups leading to the championship game at Madison Square Garden on April 3 will be filled with quality play and tough competition.

    Here is an overview of each team that makes up the NIT field, along with some big-picture predictions.


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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    UC Irvine 23-11 (13-3 Big West)

    The Anteaters won their conference regular season before losing to NCAA at-large selection Cal Poly in the Big West semifinals. UCI was the second-best team in the country for field-goal defense, holding their opponents to a stingy 37.6 percent. Freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye is the tallest player in the NIT (7'6").

    Prediction: Does UCI's defense win them a couple NIT games? Not likely.

    High Point 16-14 (12-4 Big South)

    Though they posted a horrible 4-10 nonconference record, the Panthers won their regular season before losing in their opening game of the conference tournament on a last-second three-pointer. Sophomore forward John Brown was the Big South player of the year, averaging 19.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

    Prediction: May not be too many more high points this season.

    Florida Gulf Coast 22-12 (14-4 Atlantic Sun)

    After Dunk City's miracle run to the 2013 Sweet 16, they came up short in both the regular season and conference tournament to Mercer. If they can capture the same March magic that they found a year ago, they could make another impressive run. 

    Prediction: Dunk City lives. Last year, they had their shot at the Gators. This year, FGCU gets FSU. Love it!

    Robert Morris 21-13 (14-2 NEC)

    After starting off the year 7-11, the Colonials won the conference regular-season title by two games. However, they lost to fifth-place Mount Saint Mary's in the NEC tournament championship game, preventing them from making their eighth NCAA appearance in school history. 

    Prediction: The Colonials will need to shake off the loss to MSM if they are going to make any noise in the NIT.


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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Davidson 20-12 (15-1 Southern)

    The Wildcats took care of business, winning the regular-season league title by three games before getting bumped off in the conference tournament semifinals. When you go see this team play, you know that you are going to see good shooting and lots of points scored.

    Prediction: Lots of March miracles in this program's history. Can they knock off some Goliaths in this year's NIT? Yes, they can.

    Vermont 22-10 (15-1 America East)

    The Catamounts came within a point of knocking off Duke at Cameron early in this season. They are a good beyond-the-arc shooting team that can get hot and score points in bunches. Sandro Carissimo and Candon Rusin have each hit more than 50 three-pointers this year.

    Prediction: If they could almost take down Coach K in his own crib, do you really think the Catamounts are going to back down from anyone in this NIT field?

    Boston: 24-10 (15-3 Patriot)

    After a so-so nonconference showing (7-6), the Terriers got it together, winning the regular season by two games. They need to shake themselves from the 19-point thumping that they took at home in the league finals

    Prediction: At least Boston gets to host their opening-round game against Illinois.

    Utah Valley 20-11 (13-3 WAC)

    The Wolverines were picked to finish in seventh place in the WAC this year. Instead, UVU turned it on and won the regular-season title. They are a composed team, willing to work for and wait for a good shot before pulling the trigger.

    Prediction: Patience may be a virtue, but the Wolverines may need more if they are going to get out of the NIT first round.


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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Georgia State 25-8 (17-1 Sun Belt)

    No team in Division 1 college basketball won their league by more than the Panthers (five games). Unfortunately, GSU tripped up in their conference championship game by Louisiana Lafayette. R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow form a potent one-two scoring punch.

    Prediction: No easy games ahead for the Panthers.

    Indiana State 23-10 (12-6 Missouri Valley)

    Everyone was playing for second place in the MVC this year. Even a team as good as the Sycamores were still a long way back in second place. ISU did not help themselves by dropping four of their last six games.

    Prediction: Can ISU bring some of that Missouri Valley mid-major mojo with them?

    Iona 22-10 (17-3 MAAC)

    The Gaels like to go, and they do it as well as any team in the country. They push the ball and the game tempo from the beginning of the game. They score 83.5 PPG, good for No. 4 in the nation. They do a good job of sharing the ball (17.3 APG; No. 3 in the nation) and taking care of the ball (1.65 A/TO). 

    Prediction: Iona will challenge teams with their pace, which might be enough to help the Gaels steal a few games.

    Toledo 27-6 (14-4 MAC)

    Even though the Rockets had a strong record and RPI (36) going into the Mid American Conference tournament, they still could not withstand the power of a bad loss right before Selection Sunday. Right before starting their MAC schedule, they gave Kansas a run for their money in Lawrence.

    Prediction: If they can hit their shots when it counts, the Rockets have a strong chance of pulling off a few surprises.


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    Andrew Ferguson/Associated Press

    LSU 19-13 (9-9 SEC)

    The Tigers are a good team that lost too many close games throughout the season (four games by four points or fewer). Junior forward Johnny O'Bryant III and freshman forward Jordan Mickey are handful in the LSU frontcourt.

    Prediction: Even in the NIT, the Tigers are going to have to battle just to get a W.

    Belmont 24-9 (14-2 OVC)

    The Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champs are the No. 2 FG shooting team (50.5 percent) in the nation. Even an impressive win against North Carolina in November could not cancel out a 1-5 December.

    Prediction: No one wants to see the Bruins on their schedule in March.

    Utah 21-11 (9-9 Pac 12)

    The Utes lost three frustrating OT games in Pac-12 play. They are a good shooting team (48.9 percent; No. 12 in the nation) that is one year away from being a serious challenger in the conference race.

    Prediction: Do not be surprised to see the Utes playing in NYC in the coming weeks.

    West Virginia 17-15 (9-9 Big 12)

    An 8-5 nonconference record negatively impacted the Mountaineers' quality Big 12 wins against Baylor (2), Kansas State, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas. Too bad all of their games can't be played in Morgantown. Tough as nails at home. 

    Prediction: Junior guard Juwan Staten is good enough to carry WVU a long way in the 2014 NIT.


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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    San Francisco 21-11 (13-5 WCC)

    Few people at the beginning of the season had the Dons competing for the conference title. But, they ended up tied for second in league play. Senior forward Cole Dickerson led USF in scoring (14.8 PPG) and rebounding (7.7 RPG).

    Prediction: San Francisco has a rough road ahead. No easy games in the Dons' bracket.

    St. Mary's 22-11 (11-7 WCC)

    SMC is another program that always is playing in the postseason. Junior forward Brad Waldow is a handful. Senior guard Stephen Holt does a little of everything to help the Gaels go.

    Prediction: The Gaels are good enough to go deep in the NIT but have a hard road in front of them.

    Green Bay 24-6 (14-2 Horizon)

    The Phoenix won the Horizon by two games but were knocked off by No. 5 seed Milwaukee, who went on to win the conference tourney. Junior guard Keifer Sykes may be one of the best under-the-radar players in the NIT. He led UWGB in scoring (20.3 PPG) and assists (4.9 APG).

    Prediction: Their win over Virginia proves that the Phoenix can play with anyone. Watch out, NIT!

    Georgetown 17-14 (8-10 Big East)

    The Hoyas are a better team than their record or their seventh-place finish in the Big East would suggest. Wins against Kansas State, Michigan State and Creighton demonstrate that the pieces are there.

    Prediction: Georgetown is a dark-horse team in this NIT field.


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    Danny Johnston/Associated Press

    Arkansas 21-11 (10-8 SEC)

    Mike Anderson's Razorbacks beat Kentucky both at home and on the road this year. Unfortunately, they got hot a little too late in the 2013-14 season, winning eight of their last 11 conference games.

    Prediction: The Razorbacks are on the verge of a breakthrough. The 2014 NIT may be the place that this happens.

    Louisiana Tech 27-7 (13-3 Conference USA)

    The Bulldogs won their conference regular-season title and beat Oklahoma on the road in December. They are in the Top 15 in the country in scoring (81 PPG), rebounding (39.4 RPG) and assists (15.9 APG). Four of their five starters averaged double-figure scoring. 

    Prediction: LT has the all-around game to make a deep run.

    Clemson 20-12 (10-8 ACC)

    The Tigers started off their conference schedule with a bang, winning three of their first four games, including an impressive 13-point victory over Duke. Junior forward K.J. McDaniels is having a breakout season, leading the team in scoring (17 PPG) and rebounding (7 RPG). 

    Prediction: Clemson is looking to show that they are not just a football school.

    Southern Mississippi 27-6 (13-3 Conference USA) 

    The Golden Eagles were one of four C-USA teams to finish 13-3 in league play. USM excels at hitting the offensive glass, grabbing 38.8 percent (No. 5 in the nation) of their missed FG attempts. If you put that together with their 52.1 free-throw rate, you can see why they are a tough team to beat.

    Prediction:  A very good team that will not go away easily.


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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    California 19-13 (10-8 Pac-12)

    The Bears are the team that handed Arizona their first loss of the season. Need we say more? First team All-Pac-12 guard Justin Cobbs is the real deal, leading Cal in both scoring (15.8 PPG) and assists (5.8 APG).

    Prediction: Cal was on a lot of people's lists for the "other tournament." The Bears may play with a little edge because of that.

    Illinois 19-14 (7-11 Big Ten)

    The Fighting Illini started off the season with a 13-2 record and a Top 25 ranking. But, going 1-10 in January and the first half of February turned everything south on U of I. Power guard Rayvonte Rice makes things happen with his size and skills.

    Prediction: It all depends on which Illinois shows up in the NIT.

    Georgia 19-13 (12-6 SEC)

    The Bulldogs were trying to dig out from a hole that they dug in November, losing four games before Thanksgiving. A solid showing in conference play brought them to the brink of making it into the Dance. Sophomore guard Charles Mann led the Bulldogs in scoring (13.4 PPG) and assists (3.0 APG).

    Prediction: Coach Mark Fox has the talent to do some damage in the NIT. Will they play with passion and energy?

    Missouri 22-11 (9-9 SEC)

    The Tigers were a solid NCAA tournament selection until they lost four of their last seven games. Mizzou relies on three talented transfers (Jabari Brown,  Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross) to do most of the heavy lifting. They account for 70 percent of Missouri's scoring and  two-thirds of its assists.  

    Prediction: If the matchups are right, Frank Heath's squad is lethal. But, they have to come ready to play, and that is to be determined.


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    Nate Shron/Getty Images

    SMU 23-9 (12-6 AAC)

    The Mustangs are the rare combination of being one of the best defensive and the best shooting teams in the country. They held their opponents to 37.7 percent shooting (No. 3 in the nation) and shot 48.7 percent from the floor (No. 9 in the nation). Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown keeps fresh legs on the court by playing a nine-player rotation.

    Prediction: Would it be great to see Larry Brown prowling the sidelines at Madison Square Garden? It could happen.

    Minnesota 20-13 (8-10 Big Ten)

    First-year coach Richard Pitino's three-guard attack (Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu) causes perimeter matchup problems for almost everyone that the Golden Gophers face. It is no surprise that Minnesota applies some serious on-ball pressure.

    Prediction: Since good guard play can translate into postseason success, Pitino's squad is positioned for a deep run.

    St. John's 20-12 (10-8 Big East)

    The Red Storm won eight of their last 11 games of the 2013-14 season. All-Big East selection D'Angelo Harrison is one of the most dynamic offensive players in this year's NIT field. Rysheed Jordan is a skilled freshman point guard who creates opportunities by consistently getting into the lane.

    Prediction: Just because the semifinals and championship contest would be a home game does not mean that Steve Lavin's crew are going to be on the court playing.

    Florida State 19-13 (9-9 ACC)

    Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles again are tough defenders, holding their opponents to 39.9 percent shooting (No. 21 in the nation). They also block 5.4 shots per game (No. 26). Sophomore guard Aaron Thomas leads FSU in scoring (14.1 PPG).

    Prediction: The question for the 'Noles is: Will they have enough offense to go far in the NIT? Not sure that they do.