NIT 2018: Penn State vs. Utah Championship Schedule and Predictions

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2018

Justin Bibbins and the Utes will meet Penn State in the NIT title game.
Justin Bibbins and the Utes will meet Penn State in the NIT title game.Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

If Utah and Penn State felt as if they were left out on Selection Sunday, they have more than made up for it during their runs in the National Invitation Tournament.

The Utes and Nittany Lions were both victorious in their semifinal games at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, and those two teams will square off Thursday night in the championship game.

Utah got the best of Western Kentucky 69-64, as Justin Bibbins hit all 12 of his free throws and scored 19 points to lead the Utes to the victory. Tyler Rawson scored 12 points and hit the go-ahead three-point shot with 38.1 seconds remaining.

Utah will be playing in the NIT title game for the third time in school history.

Penn State was able to advance in much easier fashion. The Nittany Lions beat Mississippi State 75-60 as Tony Carr scored a team-high 21 points and Shep Garner contributed 18 points.

Penn State dominated the game throughout and built a 27-point second-half lead before the Bulldogs were able to cut into the lead.

Penn State is in the NIT title game for the third time and is seeking its second tournament championship.

Tony Carr is a major force for the Nittany Lions.
Tony Carr is a major force for the Nittany Lions.Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

NIT Championship Game Schedule

March 29, 7 p.m. ET: Penn State vs. Utah, ESPN2

      

Utah is led by Bibbins, who is scoring 14.7 points per game and connecting on 87.6 percent of his free throws. David Collette is adding 12.5 points per game and shooting an impressive 63.5 percent from the field.

Sedrick Barefield and Rawson are both scoring in double figures as well, and Rawson leads Utah with 6.9 rebounds per game. 

The Utes have won four games in a row and 10 of their last 12.

Penn State has won six of seven games, and the Nittany Lions are led by Carr, who is averaging 19.7 points per game and connecting on 43.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Lamar Stevens is backing Carr up with a mark of 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. 

Mike Watkins is contributing 12.1 points and a team-high 8.9 rebounds per game.

     

Prediction

Utah was touch and go to get the best of Western Kentucky, while Penn State looked quite comfortable in blowing out Mississippi State. The Nittany Lions built a huge lead before they relented and allowed the Bulldogs to leave Madison Square Garden with some dignity.

Penn State has been steeled by competing in the Big Ten and had a solid year all-around. Expect Carr and Stevens to lead the way as Penn State wins the NIT title and cuts down the nets at the Garden.

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