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NIT Tournament 2018: Bracket and Schedule with Round 2 on Approach

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistMarch 15, 2018

Middle Tennessee will face Louisville in the second round of the NIT.
Middle Tennessee will face Louisville in the second round of the NIT.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

This year's top March Madness rebuffs are making the most of their NIT consolation tour.

All nine higher seeds won Tuesday's opening batch of first-round matchups. Although the underdogs put up tougher fights on Wednesday, every higher seed except No. 4 Boise State survived.

While Notre Dame, Saint Mary's, Louisville and Oklahoma State would all prefer to gear up for their opening NCAA tournament tilt on Thursday or Friday, they instead will all host second-round NIT contests in hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals. 

Here's a look at the tournament's updated bracket and upcoming schedule after concluding the first round.

       

NIT Schedule: Round 2

Saturday, March 17

Penn State at Notre Dame, 12 p.m. ET on ESPN

Sunday, March 18

Mississippi State at Baylor, 12 p.m. ET on ESPN

Oregon at Marquette, 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Middle Tennessee at Louisville, 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Monday, March 19

Stanford at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU

LSU at Utah, 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU

Washington at Saint Mary's, 11 p.m. ET on ESPNU

Western Kentucky at USC, 11:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

     

Top Game to Watch: Louisville vs. Middle Tennessee

Louisville was one of the most notable bubble teams left off the March Madness bracket.
Louisville was one of the most notable bubble teams left off the March Madness bracket.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Every home team prevailed on Tuesday by an average of 18.7 points. Aside from USC, which survived a double-overtime thriller against UNC Asheville, Louisville was the only other victor who won by single digits.

According to the Louisville Courier Journal's Jeff Greer, the players initially voted to decline the NIT invitation, but the school had already filed the acceptance paperwork. Instead of forfeiting, the Cardinals competed.

Yet the letdown of missing the Big Dance manifested early in their opening matchup against Northern Kentucky. They tallied just seven points in the second quarter before outscoring the Norse by 15 in the second half.

On his 19th birthday, Darius Perry ignited the home crowd with a scintillating dunk to close the third quarter. Per Tim Sullivan of the Courier Journal, the freshman explained his motivation to conquer a tournament that his team reportedly did not even want to play.

"Just that we’re competitors, and we should have been in the (NCAA) tournament," Perry said of what he's looking to prove in the NIT. "I think we had all the potential to be in there. Beating these teams like we’re going to will just show that we were snubbed."

After pulling off first-round upsets in each of the last two NCAA tournaments, Middle Tennessee looked poised to again receive consideration as a popular double-digit seed. The Blue Raiders had won 16 of their last 18 games before getting stunned by Southern Miss in the Conference USA quarterfinals.

Like Louisville, they also have a legitimate gripe for getting left off the NCAA tournament's 68-team bracket.

Despite failing to secure an automatic bid, they still merited an at-large spot with nation's No. 33 RPI, per ESPN.com. Louisville represents one of just five NIT participants with a higher team efficiency rating than on KenPom.com

They bounced back from an early conference-tournament exit on Tuesday night by trouncing Vermont in a 91-64 victory behind 25 points from Giddy Potts. Sunday presents a golden opportunity to prove the selection committee wrong amid dicey circumstances. 

In addition to getting left off the grand marquee, Middle Tennessee got dealt an unjust NIT hand by receiving the No. 3 seed in the same grouping as No. 2 Louisville. 

It must take on its toughest challenger of the season and will do so following news from ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman that head coach Kermit Davis will accept the Ole Miss job for next season.

Ole Miss reportedly will hire Kermit Davis as its new men's basketball head coach.
Ole Miss reportedly will hire Kermit Davis as its new men's basketball head coach.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Points will be scarce in this high-quality matchup. Per KenPom, Louisville and Middle Tennessee have respectively yielded 96.1 and 96.3 points for 100 possessions when adjusted for opponents. That ranks No. 23 and 26 in Division I.

Middle Tennessee will need another big game from Potts, who matched a season high by hitting six three-pointers against Vermont. The senior guard has accrued double-digit points in each of the last nine games.

Louisville, meanwhile, will rely on forward Deng Adel. On Tuesday, the junior scored 20 points for the third time since suffering an ankle sprain last month. As noted by 790 KRD's Howie Lindsey, he's 13 points away from reaching 1,000 over his collegiate career.

They can't bust any March Madness brackets, but the NCAA tournament snubs can at least claim some solace by taking one step closer to vying for the NIT title at Madison Square Garden.

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