In the shadow of the NCAA tournament, Round 2 of the NIT bracket continues to rage onward and offer fans of the sport some of the best possible action the month has to offer.
While the Big Dance offers stinkers like the Louisville-Saint Louis debacle, the NIT offers classic showdowns between the likes of Clemson and Illinois, a Round 2 matchup that came down to the wire before the Tigers emerged victorious, 50-49.
A few Round 2 contests remain, but two in particular are ones time-strapped fans of quality basketball will not want to miss.
An updated NIT bracket can be found here.
No. 1 SMU vs. No. 5 LSU (Region 1)
Given the performances by some of the Big Dance's teams in the first two rounds, the SMU Mustangs have to be pretty disgusted with their status as an NIT team.
They can take that aggression out on LSU.
After a 20-13 season with a 9-9 mark in SEC play, the Tigers can't complain as the program continues its upward trend. Led by Johnny O'Bryant III and his 15.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, LSU was a tough out for most teams in the SEC—including Kentucky, which only beat the Tigers 77-76 in overtime back in February.
But LSU coach Johnny Jones understands the challenge ahead against an SMU team that could very likely still be making noise at this stage of the Big Dance, according to Kent Lowe of LSUsports.net:
Their guard play, Nic is a very good player, Nic Moore. Nick Russell, a transfer, a local kid that transferred back from Kansas State. Big guy (Markus) Kennedy, a solid post guy, is very tough inside. They can spread the floor. They’re really quick, and they’re a very solid defensive basketball team. They’ve been difficult to score on by their opponents all year. I think they somewhat hang their hat on the defensive end of the floor, but they have the ability to be very good on the offensive end as well.
Indeed. The Mustangs rank No. 21 overall with an average of 62 points surrendered per game. LSU is accustomed to scoring a tad more than 75, so something will have to give with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line.
Don't miss out.
Prediction: SMU 77, LSU 69
No 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Georgetown (Region 4)
Two of the first teams to miss out on the NCAA tournament will, of course, have a fateful matchup here in Round 2.
With pride on the line in order to show the world they were snubbed, the Florida State Seminoles and Georgetown Hoyas are sure to put on a show.
They were surely snubbed. Georgetown owns impressive wins over Michigan State, Creighton, VCU and Kansas State, while Florida State played a brutal schedule and still managed a 20-13 overall record. But like LSU, a 9-9 mark in ACC play likely doomed the Seminoles.
For the Hoyas to pull off the upset, they will need every bit of D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera's 17.4 points and five rebounds per game to overcome a Seminoles defense that averages more than five blocks per game.
Smith-Rivera is the key fans will want to dial in on during the contest. He dropped 32 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against West Virginia in the opening round of the tournament to propel his team to this point.
Individual performances are much more important in the NIT as opposed to the team-centric Big Dance, so Smith-Rivera might just have what it takes to hoist the Hoyas on his back and pull off the upset.
Prediction: Florida State 68, Georgetown 60