NIT Season Tip-Off: 10 Players You Need to Watch from the Preseason Tournament

Ethan BackCorrespondent INovember 14, 2011

NIT Season Tip-Off: 10 Players You Need to Watch from the Preseason Tournament

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    College basketball offers many exciting early-season tournaments, including the NIT Season Tip-Off. Sixteen teams will compete in the NIT Season Tip-Off, which begins on Monday.

    There are many talented players on these sixteen teams, which come from conferences ranging from the ACC and Big East to the Sunbelt and SWAC.

    There are more than 10 exceptionally talented players in this tournament, but these following 10 athletes will be the ones to watch in the next following two weeks during the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Kris Joseph (Syracuse)

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    Entering his senior year, Kris Joseph will be expected to lead Syracuse to a strong season in the Big East. He averaged 14.3 PPG last season, and kicked off this season with a 16-point outing against Fordham.

    Joseph and 'Cuse will face steeper competition in the NIT Season Tip-Off than they did in their first game of the season, but Joseph has a chance to be the tournament's MVP.

George Beamon (Manhattan)

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    Manhattan will be facing Syracuse in the opening round, and if the Jaspers want any chance of staying with the Orange, they will need a strong performance out of junior guard George Beamon.

    Beamon averaged 16.3 PPG and 6.1 RPG last season, and is one of the best players in the MAAC this year. He began his junior campaign with a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) against NJIT on Saturday, but getting the same numbers against a Syracuse squad will be very difficult.

    Nonetheless, Beamon has the ability to keep Manhattan competitive in this game.

Sean McGonagill (Brown)

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    Sean McGonagill could be one of the most diverse and well-rounded basketball players in the Ivy League. Last year, as just a freshman, he averaged 11.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 5.3 APG.

    In his debut this season against Johnson and Wales, McGonagill had an exceptional game, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds, 10 assists and three steals.

    If he can do the same against Albany in the first round, expect Brown to advance to face, in all likelihood, Syracuse in the second game of tournament action.

Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech)

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    Dorian Finney-Smith, Virginia Tech's prized recruit, showed flashes of brilliance and dominance in his first collegiate game. He put up a ridiculous stat-line of 10 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and four blocks against East Tennessee State, and he played in 36 of the game's 40 minutes.

    The NIT Season Tip-Off could be Finney-Smith's coming out party, as he will have a chance to show the nation why he is one of the most diverse players in Division I basketball today.

Ryan Pearson (George Mason)

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    In George Mason's overtime victory over Rhode Island, Ryan Pearson absolutely exploded en route to 28 points and 12 rebounds. He has been a solid contributor for the past three seasons, averaging double-figures in scoring in the past two.

    The Patriots know all about upsetting higher-ranked teams in tournaments, and if they want to have success in the NIT Season Tip-Off, Pearson will have to lead them to victory. He does have a very strong supporting cast around him, and George Mason should be considered a threat to every team in its path.

Dominique Ferguson (Florida International)

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    Dominique Ferguson is Florida International's prized recruit from a season ago, as he was rated a 94 according to ESPN. He was recruited by schools such as Duke, UCLA, Arizona and Kentucky, but ultimately chose FIU, largely due to Isiah Thomas becoming the head coach.

    After a solid freshman season in which Ferguson played and started in 20 games, he is ready to show FIU fans what he can really do. At 6'9", 210 pounds, there is hardly anyone who can stop him in the Sun Belt.

    With that being said, he will need to show viewers across the nation that he is the real deal by performing against George Mason in the first round, and then most likely against Virginia Tech of the ACC.

    If Ferguson lives up to his potential, he will please Panthers fans immensely.

Wes Eikmeier (Colorado State)

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    Wes Eikmeier has come a long way since being named Gatorade Nebraska Player of the Year as both a junior and senior in high school. He was first recruited to Iowa State, but transferred from the Big 12 program to Colorado State.

    Eikmeier's first season with the Rams was rather pedestrian, as he averaged just 9.1 PPG, but he will look to increase that number this season. In the season opener against Montana, he led Colorado State to a 64-58 victory with 21 points. If he can put up similar scoring numbers the rest of the season, the Rams should have some decent success in the Mountain West.

    In the immediate future, Eikmeier will look to have a solid game against Southern Methodist in the first round of play in the NIT Season Tip-Off and will try to lead the Rams to a surprising run in the tournament.

Robert Nyakundi (Southern Methodist)

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    Robert Nyakundi probably has the best shooting percentages in the nation for a player that you have never heard of. Last season, he shot 48.1 percent from the field, 49.7 percent from three-point land and 90 percent from the free-throw line for Southern Methodist.

    Nyakundi reaches these percentages shooting with volume, as he averaged 14.3 PPG last year. He began his 2011-12 campaign scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds in a victory for the Mustangs.

    The NIT Season Tip-Off will provide the 6'8" forward with a great opportunity for people across the nation to see his game and smooth shooting touch.

Michael Hale III (UT-San Antonio)

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    UT-San Antonio may have gotten one of the best JUCO recruits in the nation in Michael Hale III. The 5'10" junior was a two-time All-American at the Junior College level. He brings explosiveness and quickness to the Roadrunners' lineup.

    In his Division I debut, Hale scored 12 points, dished out three assists and had three steals, and he will be instrumental to any success that the Roadrunners have in the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Dominique Morrison (Oral Roberts)

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    Dominique Morrison is legitimately one of the best wings in the nation. He has been nothing short of outstanding for Oral Roberts the past two seasons, and is garnering some national attention this season.

    Morrison scored 21 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists in a loss to West Virginia in the season opener, and he will be looking to keep the Golden Eagles competitive against strong competition in the NIT Season Tip-Off.

    With his talent, they will have the potential to make some noise in this preseason tournament.