While the NCAA tournament has seen its fair share of upsets from teams like Dayton and Tennessee, the NIT bracket has been predictable thus far.
Teams like Clemson and Minnesota have already secured berths to play in Madison Square Garden for the tournament semifinals, and four others were set to battle it out to book their own trip to New York to play in the iconic arena.
With the likes of top seeds Florida State and SMU taking the court on Wednesday night, both were out to continue their seasons after being denied by the NCAA selection committee.
Would either team join the Tigers and Gophers in the Empire State? Here's a look at how each game finished and an updated schedule for the semifinals in MSG.
Seminoles Survive Second-Half Surge from Bulldogs
Thanks to huge games from both Okaro White inside and Aaron Thomas from anywhere he could find an open look, No. 1 Florida State pulled out a huge 78-75 win to advance into the semifinals of the NIT.
White was on target all night while going 6-of-10 shooting for 20 points and pulling down eight rebounds. The senior helped to solidify the win for the program throughout the first half, but he had to come out early in the second due to fouls, as Ira Schoffel of the Tallahassee Democrat points out:
And that is foul No. 4 on Okaro White. With 15:57 left. 'Noles trailing 45-44 ... Worst-case scenario.— Ira Schoffel/TDO.com (@IraSchoffel) March 27, 2014
Those fouls limited the 'Noles offense, but Thomas wouldn't allow his team to fall behind. Florida State's leading scorer finished with his third straight 20-plus-point performance in the tournament as he registered a total of 21 points and nine boards to make sure his tenure with the 'Noles doesn't end just yet.
Ben Jones of Warchant notes that the scoring output is just the latest in a long line of great games for the sophomore:
Aaron Thomas has 20 pts for FSU, most with Okaro White on the bench. Scored in double figures last 16 games after 2 pts at Duke on 1/25.— Ben Jones (@WarchantBen) March 27, 2014
After experiencing a down game with just three points against Georgia, Kenneth "Speedy" Smith put on a memorable performance with 16 points and 14 rebounds. The junior was one of four Louisiana Tech players to finish in double digits in scoring but couldn't do enough to put the Bulldogs over the top.
Despite not doing enough to get his team the win, he did make a new fan in Florida State supporter Matthew Leach of MLB.com:
I would really like to see FSU play at MSG next week, but I won't lie: it's tough to root against a team with a guy named Speedy Smith. ~— Matthew Leach (@MatthewHLeach) March 27, 2014
Thankfully, there was no court rushing like another ACC team that won't be mentioned to help them save face. Making the NIT semifinals is special, but Florida State fans kept the celebration tame and didn't run the risk of injuring players before leaving for New York.
With the win, the Seminoles will now face fellow No. 1 seed Minnesota for a chance to play in the NIT final. Both games will be played in MSG, so it will all come down to whichever team is able to deal with the pressure of the bright lights.
SMU 67, Cal 65
Wednesday provided two thrillers in the NIT, as SMU edged out Cal, 67-65. SMU guard Nic Moore hit the game winner by drilling a three with just over six seconds left.
The win sends SMU coach and Hall of Famer Larry Brown back to Madison Square Garden. After the game, Brown had a tongue-in-cheek response to returning to his old stomping grounds.
"I don't know if they'll let me in," Brown said in a quote provided by the Associated Press on ESPN. "I did not feel good about New York because I didn't do a real good job coaching the Knicks. But for my team, growing up, we talked about this, the NIT was huge when I was a boy. ... I'm so thankful our kids are going to get to have that opportunity."
Cal guard Jabari Bird kept Cal in this game by going for 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
Markus Kennedy paced the Mustangs with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Kennedy also set the pick that helped free Moore for his game-winning shot. Moore finished with 11 points.
Led by Kennedy's 10 boards, the Mustangs gained their biggest advantage in this contest on the glass by pulling in 13 more rebounds than their opponents. That helped them overcome shooting 44.4 percent from the floor compared to Cal's 51 percent.
Click here to see the updated bracket, per CBS Sports.
Here's the semifinal schedule after the bracket is now down to just four programs:
- Semifinal 1 (April 1): No. 1 SMU/No. 2 California vs. No. 3 Clemson, 7 or 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
- Semifinal 2 (April 1): No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 1 Minnesota, 7 or 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
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