No Madness here, but plenty of quality basketball fans won't want to miss as the 2014 NIT tournament heads into Round 2.
Sure, all of the teams are undoubtedly scoffing at the selection committee in hindsight—No. 9 Colorado went out and got blasted in Round 2 of the NCAA tournament 77-48—but each team that feels slighted can take out its aggression and pick up a neat consolation prize in the process.
Over the course of the next three days, Round 2 of the NIT is sure to captivate those fans that give it the time of day.
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Predicted Winner|
|Friday, March 21||(8) Robert Morris vs. (5) Belmont||9:30 p.m.||ESPNU||Robert Morris|
|Saturday, March 22||(3) Louisiana Tech vs. (2) Georgia||11 a.m.||ESPN||Georgia|
|Sunday, March 23||(2) Illinois vs. (3) Clemson||11 a.m.||ESPN||Clemson|
|Sunday, March 23||(4) Saint Mary's vs. (1) Minnesota||3 p.m.||ESPN2||Minnesota|
|Sunday, March 23||(3) Southern Miss. vs. (2) Missouri||5 p.m.||ESPNU||Southern Miss.|
|Monday, March 24||(4) Georgetown vs. (1) Florida State||7 p.m.||ESPN||Florida State|
|Monday, March 24||(6) LSU vs. (1) SMU||9 p.m.||ESPN||SMU|
|Monday, March 24||(3) Arkansas vs. (2) California||11 p.m.||ESPN2||California|
Matchups to Watch
(3) Louisiana Tech vs. (2) Georgia
At 20-13 and just 12-6 in the SEC, the Georgia Bulldogs did not live up to expectations this year, but they quietly have the offensive firepower behind sophomore Charles Mann (13.9 points per game) to compete with any team in the NIT.
This was on full display in Round 1, where Georgia took down Vermont 63-56 thanks in large part to Mann's 29 points.
Which team wins?
Now flip to the other side—Louisiana Tech was a sexy sleeper pick in the Big Dance before narrowly missing out on a bid. The Bulldogs are coming off a thrilling win over Iona thanks to a layup by Kenneth Smith with 2.2 seconds left. After the game, he spoke about his big play, according to the Associated Press via the Boston Herald: "I just crashed the board and it came our way. Luckily we were able to win this game."
In a showdown between two teams that may have been able to make noise in the Big Dance, something will have to give. In the end, it will be Georgia's stellar defense that surrenders just 66.4 points per game that shuts down a Louisiana Tech offense with inflated numbers, having run wild on C-USA.
Prediction: Georgia 64, Louisiana Tech 55
(4) Georgetown vs. (1) Florida State
Chalk this up as two big programs certainly not too accustomed to NIT ball.
Officially, these two made up 50 percent of the first four out, as noted by Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated:
First four out, officially: SMU, Florida State, Green Bay, Georgetown.— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) March 16, 2014
Florida State was one missed opportunity away from the Big Dance, as a loss to Virginia in the ACC tournament sealed its fate. To be fair, not many teams beat the Cavaliers all season.
Which team wins?
The heartbreak hurts a bit more for Georgetown, owner of impressive wins over the likes of Michigan State, Creighton, VCU and Kansas State.
For those that enjoy defensive battles between sound teams, look no further than this matchup. The Seminoles allow just 65.5 points per game and average a superb 5.4 blocks per game, which are great figures considering they came in ACC play.
Against a rather stagnant Georgetown offense that relies solely on D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (17.4 points per game) for the bulk of its production, the Seminoles will be able to ride their sound defense to a comfortable victory.
Prediction: Florida State 68, Georgetown 60