NIT Tournament 2018: Bracket, Schedule and Monday Predictions

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistMarch 19, 2018

Justin Bibbins will look to guide Utah to another NIT victory.
Justin Bibbins will look to guide Utah to another NIT victory.Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Four teams have punched their tickets to the NIT quarterfinals. Another four will join them on Monday night.

After the favorites dominated the first round, Penn State stunted the status quo by upending Notre Dame in Saturday's lone second-round tilt. On Sunday, Marquette, Louisville and Mississippi State joined the Nittany Lions in the next stage, where four winners will advance to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

The eight schools competing on Monday must fend off rest after all waiting either four or five days since beginning the NIT with a victory. Here's the updated bracket and a look at the remaining second-round games.

         

Monday's NIT Schedule

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

         

Stanford at Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State won its first NIT matchup at the free-throw line.
Oklahoma State won its first NIT matchup at the free-throw line.Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Neither of these schools dominated their first opponent. Stanford watched a 10-point lead dwindle to two during the closing minute, but the Cardinal survived BYU's late comeback attempt.

Oklahoma State, meanwhile, hit a whopping 32-of-41 free-throw attempts to eliminate Florida Gulf Coast. It needed those points to overcome a 35.6 field-goal percentage (21-of-59). 

While the Cowboys likely won't benefit from so many foul calls, they still boast home-court advantage. That could make all the difference in this No. 2 vs. No. 3 matchup. Oklahoma State is 14-5 at Gallagher-Iba Arena, and Stanford has gone 5-11 on the road.

Yet the hosts would benefit from the officials calling another tight game, as Stanford has posted a woeful 68.4 free-throw percentage. Throw in 14.9 turnovers per game, and those deficiencies will cost them a road upset against one of this year's toughest NCAA tournament snubs.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 80, Stanford 72

         

LSU at Utah

LSU coach Will Wade sparked some controversy by calling a timeout late in the opening round's win over Louisville.
LSU coach Will Wade sparked some controversy by calling a timeout late in the opening round's win over Louisville.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Both head coaches have received ample time to regain their composure from first-round fits.

Before Utah finalized a 69-59 win over UC Davis, Larry Krystkowiak got ejected for his second technical foul. LSU coach Will Wade didn't quite set an example for his student-athletes by bickering with Louisville coach Bob Marlin.

Per DatBoot.com's Jerit Roser, Wade explained his actions by seemingly mocking Marlin's earlier accusations of LSU dodging Louisville:

The players must rise above the adults' childish behavior at Utah, where the Utes are 13-3. LSU, however, ranks six spots higher (No. 61) in KenPom.com's overall efficiency rating.

A slow pace should yield a close, low-scoring contest. Undersized guards Justin Bibbins and Tremont Waters will look to lead their respective offenses, but look for the 5'8" Bibbins to register his fourth straight 20-point game in a home victory.

Prediction: Utah 66, LSU 64

                    

Washington at Saint Mary's

Saint Mary's dominated its first NIT matchup after getting left off the March Madness bracket.
Saint Mary's dominated its first NIT matchup after getting left off the March Madness bracket.L.E. Baskow/Associated Press

Saint Mary's is hungry to prove it's competing in the wrong tournament.

Rather than participating in March Madness, the Gaels obliterated Southeastern Louisiana in the opening round's 89-45 win. Center Jock Landale made more field goals (11) than the entire Lions' starting lineup combined (nine).

The senior center is averaging 21.5 points and 10.2 rebounds with a remarkably efficient 64.3 field-goal percentage. Stopping him will be a monumental task for Washington, the only road team to earn an opening-round road win.

No school shunned from the NCAA tournament fares better in KenPom's team rating than the Gaels, who spot higher than first-round exits Arizona and Miami at No. 26 with the ninth-best adjusted offense. One must scroll far down the ledger to find Washington at No. 102 overall and No. 161 in offense, so Saint Mary's should cruise past the slate's most lopsided matchup.

Prediction: Saint Mary's 85, Washington 72

           

Western Kentucky at USC

Western Kentucky will have a size advantage against USC, who will play without Chimezie Metu.
Western Kentucky will have a size advantage against USC, who will play without Chimezie Metu.Shaban Athuman/Getty Images

After barely escaping a double-overtime opener against UNC Asheville, USC remains on upset alert.

As of Sunday, OddsShark still favors the Trojans by four points even though they will play without Chimezie Metu. The junior, who leads the team in points (15.7), rebounds (7.4) and blocks (1.7) per game, is sitting out the NIT to prevent a pre-draft injury.

Without their star big man, Nick Rakocevic was the only forward to log more than five minutes in Tuesday's 50-minute contest. That size discrepancy will prove a major obstacle against Western Kentucky senior forwards Dwight Coleby and Justin Johnson.

The Hilltoppers live inside with 799 two-point makes, the highest tally of any Division-I squad, according to Sports Reference. Metu's absence gives them the perfect opportunity to bully USC in the paint and eliminate the No. 1 seed.

Prediction: Western Kentucky 78, USC 72

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