You might be ignoring the NIT because you need a little bit of a basketball break after the NCAA tournament lived up to the madness in the first four days, but in doing so, you would be missing out on some really exciting matchups.
With two more slots available for the semifinals at Madison Square Garden, the final quarterfinal matchups promise to be tight, competitive affairs. Let's break them down.
SMU vs. California
Many folks believe SMU was snubbed by not earning a berth in the NCAA tournament, and there was the concern perhaps that they would feel slighted and fail to show up for the NIT. Not the case. SMU has looked sharp and focused in their first two games and remain the most talented team in this tournament, at least on paper.
They are a balanced side that brings it on both ends of the court, led by Nic Moore (13.6 PPG, 4.9 APG) and Markus Kennedy (12.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG). Oh, and they have that Larry Brown fella pulling the strings, so you know they have the coaching edge.
SMU also has the home-court advantage, and Brown expects the same raucous environment from the first two NIT games, via John Crumpacker of SFGate.com:
The environment is as good as any. This was the loudest I've experienced. We don't beat Irvine (in an NIT first-round game) without our crowd. Maybe we don't come back tonight (vs. LSU) without our crowd. I never imagined it'd be like this. Our kids should be thrilled.
Cal won't roll over, though. Mike Montgomery is a heck of a coach in his own right and Justin Cobbs (15.3 PPG, 5.8 APG) is a big-time ballplayer. Cal will give SMU all it can handle and then some, but the Mustangs are the more talented team and should ride a rowdy crowd to victory.
Florida State vs. Louisiana Tech
A year ago, Louisiana Tech knocked the Seminoles out of the NIT. Can they duplicate the feat?
Well, they certainly won't sneak up on Florida State this year. And the Seminoles are fresh off of a blitzkrieg against Georgetown, winning 101-90. So, how can Tech slow down the Seminoles?
According to Sean Isabella of TheNewsStar.com, turnovers.
Using pressure defense in both full-court and half-court situations, Tech nearly ran Georgia out of its own building with 19 turnovers.
The Bulldogs forced 18 last year at FSU and the same type of intensity is needed to slow down an offense that just shot 68 percent and dropped 101 points against Georgetown on Monday.
It won’t be an easy task to shoot 68 percent in back-to-back games, but if anything, it proved Florida State, like Tech, is a streaky shooting team that can put up points in bunches.
Chris Anderson and Alex Hamilton lead a Bulldogs squad that can certainly score in bunches, but this is a balanced bunch that isn't reliant on one player to carry the load.
Meanwhile, Florida State's outburst against Georgetown was pretty surprising as the team is averaging 70.9 points per game this year. They'll likely need a repeat performance against a Louisiana Tech side that has won 12 of their last 14 games and seems extremely motivated to make the trip to Madison Square Garden.
Expect the Bulldogs to make it two in a row against the Seminoles.
Prediction: Louisiana Tech
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