NIT 2018: Updated Bracket, Schedule and Predictions Heading into Semifinals

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 23, 2018

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 02: Tony Carr #10 of the Penn State Nittany Lions in action against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 2, 2018 in New York City. The Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 69-68.  (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The 2018 NIT Final Four brings a unique group of four teams together at Madison Square Garden.

Teams from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC that barely missed out on the NCAA men's basketball tournament have worked their way into the Final Four, with a strong mid-major program from Conference USA joining them.

Three of the four semifinalists are No. 4 seeds, who have won their last two games on the road, while the other is a No. 2 seed.

The semifinals of the NIT take place Tuesday, with the final in New York City two days later.

        

NIT Final Four Schedule and Bracket

Tuesday, March 27

No. 2 Utah vs. No. 4 Western Kentucky (7 p.m., ESPN)

No. 4 Penn State vs. No. 4 Mississippi State (9 p.m., ESPN)

         

Thursday, March 29

Winner of semifinal No. 1 vs. winner of semifinal No. 2 (7 p.m., ESPN2) 

All Times ET

        

Predictions

Penn State Continues Terrific Late-Season Run

Normally the talk on the Penn State campus this time of year revolves around what the football team is going to look like during its spring game.

Instead of centering all the athletic attention on football, the campus is preparing for the basketball program's chase for the NIT championship.

Pat Chambers' Nittany Lions made a late run at an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament by making the Big Ten tournament semifinals, but in the end their resume wasn't strong enough.

Penn State earned a pair of impressive road wins over Notre Dame and Marquette, as well as a win in the NIT home opener against Temple.

The latest road triumph over Marquette saw Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr combine for 55 points.

Chris Knight/Associated Press

In Stevens, Carr and Shep Garner, the Nittany Lions have a collection of scoring threats that few teams have been able to stop over the last few weeks.

However, the Nittany Lions won't be able to cruise to a victory at Madison Square Garden since they're taking on a Mississippi State team that handled Louisville in the quarterfinals at the KFC Yum! Center.

What could end up making the difference for Penn State is the home-court advantage it should feel in New York City.

Before the NIT, Mississippi State was not a good team on the road, as it went 2-8 with the only wins coming against Texas A&M and South Carolina.

Although the Bulldogs have a few impressive scorers, Penn State's proved throughout the tournament it can limit the output of star players, as it held Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson to 16 points in the second round.

As long as Penn State keeps Quinndary Weatherspoon quiet, and receives the same production from Stevens, Carr and Garner it has all tournament, it should be in Thursday's final.

        

Western Kentucky Knocks Off Another Power-Conference Foe

Western Kentucky's taken an interesting road to Madison Square Garden, as it earned road victories at USC and Oklahoma State to reach the NIT Final Four.

Once seen as a potential Cinderella in March Madness, the Conference USA team was relegated to the NIT after a loss to Marshall in the C-USA tournament final.

The 27-10 Hilltoppers showcased scoring variety in their quarterfinal win over Oklahoma State, as four players reached double digits, with Taveion Hollingsworth scoring a game high of 30.

Rick Stansbury's team also flexed its defensive muscle by holding Oklahoma State to 38.9 percent shooting despite giving up 10 three-pointers.

BOWLING GREEN, KY - JANUARY 27:  Forward Justin Johnson #23 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers dunks the ball in a game against Marshall University at E.A. Diddle Arena on January 27, 2018 in Bowling Green, Ky. (Photo by Shaban Athuman/ Getty Images)
Shaban Athuman/Getty Images

The win over USC in the second round produced similar results, as the Hilltoppers forced the Trojans to shoot under 50 percent while conceding nine triples.

The key for the Hilltoppers Tuesday against Utah is limiting the shots from beyond the arc while cleaning up on the boards and preventing second-chance opportunities.

Western Kentucky must silence Justin Bibbins, who is a 44.3 percent shooter from three-point range, in order to keep Utah from surging ahead early in the contest.

As long as the Hilltoppers lock into a rhythm on defense early on, they should be able to create chances on offense and keep Utah off the scoreboard.

           

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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