Multiple teams remaining in the 2014 NIT bracket boast wins against ballclubs which entered Sunday still alive in the Big Dance.
Southern Methodist defeated Connecticut twice by a combined 18 points, and Minnesota beat Wisconsin by the score of 81-68 in late January. The Mustangs and Gophers will enter the NIT semifinals knowing they've edged better. But one-seeded Florida State and three-seeded Clemson aren't pushovers.
Here is a schedule of when to watch each showdown, as well as predictions of which teams will advance to the NIT Championship.
2014 NIT Semifinal Schedule
|2014 NIT Semifinal Schedule|
|Tuesday, April 1||7 p.m.||Southern Methodist||Clemson||ESPN2|
|Tuesday, April 1||9 p.m.||Minnesota||Florida State||ESPN2|
2014 NIT Semifinal Predictions
No. 1 Southern Methodist vs. No. 3 Clemson
Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels must be the best player on the floor for the Tigers to upset the Mustangs. Led by Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown, Southern Methodist should enter this matchup as favorites to move on. With 23 regular-season wins, analysts—including ESPN's Andy Katz—believe SMU should've been in the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers didn't receive the same sympathy, so McDaniels—their leading scorer—must level the playing field like he's capable of doing. He's averaging 17.2 points per game this season and 19.3 in the NIT. While McDaniels has scored at least 24 points in six performances since February, no one else on Clemson averages double-digit points per game.
Southern Methodist doesn't benefit from a plethora of go-to scorers either. No Mustang averages over 13.5 points per game. However, SMU's overall offensive efficiency makes up for its lack of star power.
As a team, Southern Methodist shoots 48.7 percent from the field. Clemson, which shoots just 41.8 percent, can't afford a cold shooting night from its leading scorer. The Tigers have too much riding on one player against an SMU team arguably too talented for the NIT.
Prediction: Southern Methodist by 5
No. 1 Minnesota vs. No. 1 Florida State
Depth will be the difference when the Gophers face off against the Seminoles for the second time this season. In Round 1, Minnesota defeated Florida State by the score of 71-61. An edge in the depth department didn't directly lead to a Minnesota victory, but its influence was apparent when only three Seminoles scored at least two field goals, compared to five Gophers.
On the season, Minnesota has eight players who average over five points per game. Florida State has just six players who do the same.
The Gophers' depth could take a hit according to TwinCities.com's Marcus Fuller, who reported Maurice Walker will start at center in place of an injured Elliott Eliason. But Eliason has not been ruled out, and the fact that Walker actually scores more points per game than Eliason only speaks to Minnesota's depth.
The Gophers have beaten its three NIT opponents by a combined 23 points. They've avoided a nail biter. Florida State hasn't, edging Louisiana Tech by only three points.
Minnesota won't avoid a nail biter on Tuesday, but its depth will lead to another victory.
Prediction: Minnesota by 2
David Daniels is a breaking news writer at Bleacher Report and news editor at Wade-O Radio.
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