NIT 2021: Betting Odds, Over-Under Predictions for Round 1 Bracket

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 16, 2021

NIT 2021: Betting Odds, Over-Under Predictions for Round 1 Bracket

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Missing men's college basketball action while waiting for the 2021 NCAA tournament to begin on Thursday with this year's First Four matchups? Well, college hoops will be back on TV before then.

    The National Invitation Tournament gets underway with a pair of matchups on Wednesday, as top teams that missed out on the NCAA tourney get an opportunity to extend their season.

    However, instead of a 32-team field like past years, there are only 16 teams partaking in this year's NIT, which is taking place entirely in the Dallas-Fort Worth area due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Because of the smaller field, the tournament didn't give automatic invitations to regular-season conference champions. So every team in the field received and accepted an at-large bid. Some of the teams that were on the bubble for the NCAA tourney—such as Ole Miss, Saint Louis and Memphis—will be playing in the NIT.

    Here's everything you need to know for the opening round of the tournament, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.

1st-Round Odds, Predictions

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Wednesday, March 17

    No. 2 Richmond vs. No. 3 Toledo (-1.5); Over/Under 154 points

    No. 2 Saint Mary's (-2) vs. No. 3 Western Kentucky; O/U 124.5


    Thursday, March 18

    No. 2 Davidson (-1.5) vs. No. 3 N.C. State; O/U 139.5

    No. 2 Boise State (-1.5) vs. No. 3 SMU; O/U 145.5


    Friday, March 19

    No. 1 Colorado State (-1) vs. No. 4 Buffalo; O/U 153.5

    No. 1 Ole Miss (-6) vs. No. 4 Louisiana Tech; O/U 131


    Saturday, March 20

    No. 1 Memphis (-4.5) vs. No. 4 Dayton; O/U 137.5

    No. 1 Saint Louis (-4.5) vs. No. 4 Mississippi State; O/U 136.5


    Picks in bold. Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

Buffalo Could Notch Upset, Make NIT Run

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Unlike the NCAA tournament, there's a decent chance that a No. 1 seed will lose in the opening round of the NIT—especially now that the field is smaller and those teams will be taking on No. 4 seeds to begin the tournament.

    One No. 4 seed that could have the best chance of pulling off a first-round upset is Buffalo, which begins the NIT with a matchup against Colorado State on Friday night. The Bulls are 16-8 and had won seven games in a row before they fell to Ohio in the MAC tournament championship game.

    Meanwhile, Colorado State has lost two of its past three games, which included falling to Utah State in the semifinals of the Mountain West tournament. So the Rams will be looking to bounce back with a strong showing in the NIT to end their season.

    Buffalo may not have faced much tough competition during MAC play, but it put on a solid display against Syracuse (which is in the NCAA tournament) on Dec. 19, taking the Orange to overtime before falling 107-96.

    Don't underestimate the Bulls, and don't be surprised if they knock off Colorado State and make some noise in the tourney.

Ole Miss Should Get off to Strong Start

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Ole Miss nearly upset LSU in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament last week, but the Rebels ended up falling 76-73.

    If that game had gone differently, it's possible Ole Miss would be getting ready for the NCAA tournament right now. Instead, it's one of the top teams in this year's NIT field.

    Prior to that loss to LSU, Ole Miss had been playing well in the second half of the regular season. It ended with seven wins in its final nine games and opened the SEC tourney with a second-round victory over Vanderbilt.

    The Rebels are powered by the talented trio of senior guard Devontae Shuler (15.3 points per game), junior guard Jarkel Joiner (11.6) and senior forward Romello White (11.6).

    That's an experienced core that could help Ole Miss cap a solid season by potentially winning the NIT championship. But first, the Rebels will have to get by No. 4-seeded Louisiana Tech in a first-round matchup on Friday night.

    It can be tough to pick winners in the NIT, as it's tough to tell how motivated teams will be after missing out on March Madness. That wasn't a problem for Ole Miss during its 2017 NIT appearance, when it won two games to reach the quarterfinals, and it could fare well again this year.

NC State Could Be a Top Team to Watch

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Although NC State endured some midseason struggles, it was facing tough ACC competition. And by the time the conference tournament arrived, the Wolfpack were playing some of their best basketball of the season. It just didn't lead to tourney success.

    Entering the ACC tournament, NC State was on a five-game winning streak, a stretch that included a victory over Virginia, one of the top teams in the conference. However, the Wolfpack fell in their first game of the tourney, losing to Syracuse 89-68 in the second round.

    Still, NC State could bounce back with a solid showing in the NIT, especially after getting tested with some challenging opponents throughout conference play. The Wolfpack open the NIT with a matchup against Davidson on Thursday, and if they win that game, they could reestablish the momentum they had in late February and early March.

    If NC State gets hot from three-point range, it could be difficult to beat in the tourney. The Wolfpack shot 36.5 percent from beyond the arc this season, which tied for third best in the ACC, so that could be the key to their success in Texas.

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