The 2014 NIT is under way, and there have already been some surprises from a few of the early matchups.
A No. 1 seed has already gone down, there was a mini-upset of a No. 5 over a No. 4 and there were even a couple of blowouts. While fans wait for the NCAA tournament's round of 64 to kick off, the NIT has been successful in providing plenty of excitement.
Here a few teams in the second round of the tournament that will likely keep the excitement going. Make sure you monitor their games.
No. 8 Robert Morris
You won't find the bottom-seeded teams winning the NCAA tournament, but No. 8 Robert Morris was able to take down No. 1 St. John's in the NIT on Tuesday.
Karvel Anderson was lights out from the floor, shooting 12-of-20 overall and 9-of-15 from deep en route to 38 points. He pulled down five rebounds for good measure. Lucky Jones added 25 of his own to help the Colonials win, 89-78.
Karvel Anderson of Robert Morris with the "around the world" shot chart. He had a career-high 38 points in NIT win pic.twitter.com/j2bsQg3Cyn— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 19, 2014
St. John's head coach Steve Lavin told the Associated Press, via USA Today, that the Colonials were simply the sharper team: "We didn't give an A-level effort. We got beat to the punch in every aspect of play."
Anderson's blistering shooting night makes the Colonials worth watching moving forward. He clearly has the ability to light it up from deep, and a team that is clicking on all cylinders from that distance is difficult to stop.
In a tournament where games can be won based on the performance of a single player, Robert Morris is at an advantage. They would not have defeated St. John's without Anderson.
No. 5 Belmont
Belmont took on a Green Bay team that was missing its leading scorer and Horizon League Player of the Year Keifer Sykes, and it took advantage of a team that was obviously missing its leader.
FYI UWGB didn’t have Keifer Sykes tonight in their loss to Belmont #NIT— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) March 19, 2014
Green Bay committed a season-high 21 turnovers, and Belmont ended the first half on a 12-4 run to put some distance between the two teams before the second half. Craig Bradshaw and Drew Windler combined for 40 points in Belmont's 80-65 win.
You should watch Belmont because they are the lucky (or unlucky) team that gets to take on Robert Morris in the second round of the tournament. Belmont may have gotten the upper hand over Green Bay because Sykes was inactive with an ankle injury, but Robert Morris is hot right now.
If Belmont can stop Robert Morris when they take on the No. 8 seed at home, then there's plenty of reason to believe that it will take care of business at Madison Square Garden as well.
No. 1 Minnesota
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are a No. 1 seed in this year's NIT, and they proved their worth in the first round against High Point. It was a closer contest than expected, but Minnesota defeated its opponent, 88-81.
Minnesota was a snub of sorts from the NCAA tournament, and teams sometimes fall short in the NIT after missing out on the Big Dance. Sometimes the disappointment is too much to overcome. The Associated Press, via Fox Sports, writes that the Golden Gophers can go all the way if they avoid that mindset:
"The Gophers have the depth and talent to win this consolation event if they stay engaged the way many major-conference teams fail to."
Will the Gophers win it all?
They'll take on a St. Mary's team that just defeated Utah, 70-58, in the second round. St. Mary's closed the game out with an intensity that will be difficult for any team—including Minnesota—to match.
Minnesota is an NCAA tournament-caliber team playing in the NIT. If the team can maintain focus, there's no reason the Gophers won't be hoisting the tournament trophy at Madison Square Garden.
The next step in doing so is getting past St. Mary's.