NIT Bracket 2014: Players Who Will Shine in Final Four

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMarch 27, 2014

Minnesota's Austin Hollinsduring an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament against High Point in Minneapolis, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
Tom Olmscheid/Associated Press

With the NIT whittled down to four teams, there is an opportunity for every player to add to his legacy. Sure, dominating the final games of the NIT doesn't carry near the weight of the NCAA tournament, but this is still a chance for a player to leave a lasting impression in a championship setting.

This can boost a player's confidence and stock as he prepares for the next phase of his career, or it can create serious momentum for the offseason and next season. Of course, a terrible performance that falls below expectations will have the exact opposite effect. 

Let us not focus on the negative, though. I want to look at players who will make a positive impression in this rather chalky semifinal. 

No. 1 seeds SMU, Minnesota and Florida State have all advanced to this point, which leaves only No. 3 seed Clemson to be the underdog. Of course, Clemson has the most exciting player in this tournament on its side. You'll read about him below.


Updated Bracket: CBS Sports provides a live bracket.


Players Who Will Shine

Austin Hollins, Minnesota

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 13:  Austin Hollins #20 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers shoots the ball in the game against the Penn State  Nittany Lions during the first round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 13, 2014 in
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After a rough stretch in the middle of the season for himself and his team, senior guard Austin Hollins is offering up a spectacular finish to his college career. 

Minnesota advanced to the semifinal with an 81-73 win over Southern Mississippi. Hollins had 32 points in the game, and he carried his team while the rest of the Minnesota lineup got off to a bad start. 

"I knocked down some shots early," Hollins said, per Pat Ruff of "When you see the ball going through the basket early, it always helps your confidence."

Confidence is huge for Hollins. He can be a streaky shooter, but his confidence is soaring. 

Not only was he outstanding last game, but he's played eight games since Feb. 25, and he's hit double digits in scoring in all but two of them. He is averaging 16.5 points per game in that span. 

He's also had at least two steals in each of those games. 

Hollins is a calm player with the ability to rise above the moment. That is exactly what he will do for the remainder of his college career. 


K.J. McDaniels, Clemson

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 08:  K.J. McDaniels #32 of the Clemson Tigers pulls down a rebound against Ryan Kelly #34 of the Duke Blue Devils during play at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 8, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Ima
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

K.J. McDaniels wasn't getting a lot of hype at the start of the season, but the junior forward is turning some heads now. Should he forgo his senior season, he very well could wind up as a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

Draft Express' Jonathan Givony is excited to see more from McDaniels. 

McDaniels needs to improve his outside shooting stroke, but he still hit over 30 percent of his threes this year. 

McDaniels is a 6'6" wing player with the leaping ability to play bigger than his height. He averages 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game this season. He is a highlight waiting to happen. He turned in the below one-handed throwdown last round, and it wound up being No. 1 on SportsCenter's top 10:

McDaniels averages 17.1 points per game this season, and he's been better in the NIT. In his three NIT games, he's averaging 19.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game all while shooting 64.5 percent from the field. 

McDaniels is going to continue turning heads as the NIT plays out. 


Nic Moore, SMU

Sharon Ellman/Associated Press

Nic Moore checks in at just 5'9", but he has a big game. The sophomore guard is a steady floor leader who averages 13.6 points and 4.9 assists per game. 

He is producing close to those averages in the NIT. In his three games, he's combined to score 34 points and dish 14 assists. 

These are not dominant numbers, but players don't have to dominate the stat sheet to shine. 

For instance, SMU advanced past Cal last round by the narrow margin of two points. Moore produced 11 of his team's 67 points. Three of those points came on a game-winning three with just over six seconds left. 

Dwain Price, the Star-Telegram's Dallas Mavericks beat writer, wasn't surprised Moore drilled the game-winner: 

Quality guard play is huge in a tournament setting, and Moore will continue to come up with big plays and good decisions when his team needs them.