The NIT Season Tip-Off might not start for another few days, but it's never too early to preview a tournament.
East Region (At Duke)
Coastal Carolina vs. Duke—Even though Mason Plumlee is out with a broken wrist, Duke is Duke and will run away with this first-round match. The Blue Devils will dominate the perimeter against the small Chanticleers, who allowed opponents to connect on 33.9 percent of their three-pointers in 2008-09. Expect a margin of victory to be in the vicinity of 20 points in Duke's favor.
Charlotte vs. Elon—Both teams are young and inexperienced, but the edge goes to Charlotte, who returns enough scoring from last year.
Charlotte vs. Duke—There's really no chance of the 49ers pulling off the upset in Cameron Indoor. Duke will advance to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
West Region (At Arizona State)
Texas State vs. Arizona State—Although both teams lost significant members either to graduation or the NBA Draft, Arizona State did a better job stocking up on talented freshmen this offseason. Put them in the game with Rihards Kuksiks, Derek Glasser, and Ty Abbott and the Sun Devils should have an easy victory at home.
Texas Christian vs. Cal-State Northridge—You might remember last year's Matadors, who gave Memphis a scare in the first round of the Big Dance. These Matadors, though, only return one starter from that team and will be speared by the Horned Frogs, who have much more experience.
Texas Christian vs. Arizona State—The Sun Devils posted an imposing 14-3 home record in 2008-09. While these Sun Devils are without James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, they will not lose to Texas Christian on their own floor.
South Region (At LSU)
Indiana State vs. LSU—Somehow Tasmin Mitchell is still in college. Unfortunately for the Tigers, though, Mitchell is only joined by one player who logged more than 10 minutes per game for LSU last year. Experience is crucial, but the Tigers should still be able to eliminate the Sycamores at home.
Western Kentucky vs. UW-Milwaukee—The Hilltoppers return all but one key player from last year's tournament team. Combine the experience with one of the best mid-major recruiting classes and WKU will defeat the Panthers, whose 39.7 percent field-goal percentage is beyond terrible.
Western Kentucky vs. LSU—Finally, an opportunity for an upset. Even at home, the Tigers won't reach the top of the hill (get it?), as WKU's hot shooting and fast pace will deny them of a trip to the Big Apple.
North Region (At UConn)
Colgate vs. UConn—Stanley Robinson, Jerome Dyson, and Kemba Walker will thwart any Raider who steps in their way.
Hofstra vs. Yale—Although this is almost a home game for Yale, Charles Jenkins and the glass-dominating Pride will make Bulldogs fans wish they'd stayed in the classroom instead of watching.
Hofstra vs. UConn—UConn will own the glass, Hofstra's greatest strength, and will head south for New York City after dominating the Pride.
Semifinals (At Madison Square Garden)
Duke vs. Arizona State—Duke's outstanding shooting and experience will outlast the efforts of the immature Sun Devils.
Western Kentucky vs. UConn—There's no doubt that the impartial Garden crowd will eventually become filled with emotion as the Hilltoppers stay close with the Huskies. It will come down to the wire, and WKU, behind A.J. Slaughter's clutch shooting, will spoil the scheduling committee's coveted championship.
Championship (At Madison Square Garden)
Duke vs. Western Kentucky—This is where Western Kentucky's magical run comes to an end. Duke's plethora of perimeter options will be too much for the Hilltoppers to handle, and the Blue Devils will take home the Tip-Off's trophy.