Unlike the NCAA tournament, the NIT brackets have been mostly chalk. The lowest remaining seed heading into Tuesday's quarterfinals was the fifth-seeded Belmont Bruins.
Rick Byrd's team took on the third-seeded Clemson Tigers from Region 1 on Wednesday, and there's a reason they're being mentioned in the past tense.
In Region 3, the top-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated another third seed, the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.
Here's a look at how those games shook out.
Clemson Outlasts Belmont
Damarcus Harrison was huge in the second half for the Tigers. He scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime, and Clemson beat a tough Belmont team 73-68 in Clemson, S.C., to advance to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
The Tigers are awaiting the winner of the SMU-California matchup. Tigers fans were so excited after Tuesday night's win, they...wait for it...stormed the court, of course.
Milwaukee Bucks guard Nate Wolters and Dan Wolken of USA Today want to know why:
Clemson just stormed the court in NIT?? Oh no— Nate Wolters (@NateWolters) March 26, 2014
Please no, Clemson. Do not rush the cour…too late :(— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 26, 2014
There are no sensible answers for this new—but old—phenomena sweeping the campuses of middle-of-the-road college basketball programs, but it was an exciting game.
Belmont trailed by six at the half, but behind J.J. Mann's 20 points, the Bruins came storming back to take a five-point lead with under four minutes remaining in the game.
During the final minutes of the game, strong defensive performances from Clemson's K.J. McDaniels—who also had 16 points—and his teammates helped to shut Belmont down.
The Bruins missed their last four shots from the field and were held scoreless for the final 2:29 of the game. Harrison scored six of the Tigers' final nine points in the decisive run.
After it was over, Clemson's two stars talked briefly about what it took to come out on top, per Clemson Basketball on Twitter:
The Tigers are now just two wins away from capturing the NIT title.
Austin Hollins Carries Minnesota Over the Golden Eagles
Behind 32 points from Hollins, the Golden Gophers punched their ticket to the NIT semifinal on Tuesday night in Minneapolis with an 81-73 win. Hollins was on fire from beyond the arc. He made 6-of-11 attempts from deep.
Jeff Haeger of WHLT in Mississippi talked about how big Hollins was to the Gophers offense, and how the Golden Eagles struggled to score:
Austin Hollins scored just under 40 percent of Minnesota's points tonight. Watson and Boardingham only two players in double digits for USM.— Jeff Haeger (@TheJeffTakeWHLT) March 26, 2014
Despite being out rebounded 37-27 by Southern Miss., the Gophers pressed on thanks to a huge edge on the free throw line.
Both teams had their opportunities from the stripe, but the Gophers took better advantage. Hollins made all 10 of his attempts from the line. As a team, the Gophers converted on an impressive 19-of-21 attempts while the Golden Eagles sank just 12-of-20.
That was the biggest difference in the game.
Southern Miss. held an eight-point lead on two occasions in the first half, but couldn't hold on to it. Minnesota had taken a four-point lead by halftime. Behind Hollins who had 15 of his 32 in the second half, Minny took control.
The Golden Gophers await the winner of the Florida State-Louisiana Tech quarterfinal which will be played on Wednesday.
Click here to see the updated bracket, per CBSSports.com.
Here's Wednesday schedule, as the bracket will trim down to four:
- Region 1: No. 1 SMU vs. No. 2 California, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
- Region 4: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 3 Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
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