NIT Tournament 2021: Updated Odds, Bracket Predictions for Thursday

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 18, 2021

NIT Tournament 2021: Updated Odds, Bracket Predictions for Thursday

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    Two teams have advanced to the quarterfinals of this year's National Invitation Tournament, and six more will have done the same come Saturday. With a 16-team field, the event will be moving much quicker than past years.

    Thirty-two teams are typically involved, but with the entire event taking place in the Dallas-Fort Worth area amid the coronavirus pandemic, the NIT has a smaller field this year. However, it's still featuring some of the top teams that missed out on making the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

    On Wednesday, No. 2-seeded Richmond beat No. 3-seeded Toledo 76-66 in the opening game of the tournament. Then No. 3-seeded Western Kentucky defeated No. 2-seeded Saint Mary's 69-67, winning on a pair of free throws by Taveion Hollingsworth with 3.3 seconds remaining.

    Here's a look at the schedule for the rest of the first round of this year's NIT, followed by predictions for Thursday's matchups.

Remaining 1st-Round Schedule, Odds

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Thursday, March 18

    No. 2 Davidson (-1.5) vs. No. 3 NC State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

    No. 2 Boise State (-1) vs. No. 3 SMU, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN


    Friday, March 19

    No. 1 Colorado State (-1.5) vs. No. 4 Buffalo, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

    No. 1 Ole Miss (-4.5) vs. No. 4 Louisiana Tech, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2


    Saturday, March 20

    No. 1 Memphis (-4.5) vs. No. 4 Dayton, noon ET, ESPN

    No. 1 Saint Louis (-4.5) vs. No. 4 Mississippi State, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

NC State Continues Dominance over Davidson

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    It's been more than a decade since NC State and Davidson last faced off in men's college basketball. But when these programs meet, it's typically ended in the same manner: with the Wolfpack emerging victorious.

    NC State has won 25 of its past 27 games against Davidson dating back to 1949, although the Wildcats were the winners the last time the programs met in December 2008.

    The Wolfpack has been tested more this season, facing some difficult opponents during its ACC schedule. They went 9-8 in conference play but ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak, a stretch that included a victory over Virginia.

    But NC State couldn't carry that momentum into the men's ACC tournament, where it lost to Syracuse in the second round. The Wolfpack are consequently making their second NIT appearance in three years and appear motivated to keep their season going.

    "From what I've seen from our guys the last couple of days, I see excitement," NC State coach Kevin Keatts said, per Field Level Media (h/t CBS Sports). "I see guys that want to play. We're blessed to be one of 84 teams left to be playing in our season. I think that's important."

    Davidson hasn't played since March 6, when it lost to Virginia Commonwealth in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Wildcats have lost three of their past five games and will be looking to bounce back after a long layoff.

    While it should be a competitive game, NC State has proved it can get motivated to play in the NIT before (winning two games in the 2019 tournament) and should have the talent to take down Davidson. Expect the Wolfpack to pull away late and advance to the quarterfinals.

    Prediction: NC State 78, Davidson 68

Boise State Rebounds to Advance in NIT

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    If Boise State wins its first-round matchup in the NIT on Thursday, it would be the Broncos' first victory since Feb. 19. SMU, meanwhile, hasn't won a game since Feb. 8. One of these droughts will come to an end Thursday.

    Boise State ended the regular season with three straight losses, but two of those were difficult road matchups at San Diego State. The Broncos couldn't bounce back in the men's Mountain West tournament, however, falling to Nevada in the quarterfinals and having their hopes of reaching the NCAA tourney come to an end.

    SMU has only played one game since its most recent win, going more than a month without taking the court due to COVID-19 protocols. When the Mustangs got back in action, they fell to Cincinnati in the quarterfinals of the men's AAC tournament.

    So while Boise State may not have fared well in recent weeks, it's at least been facing other teams. And that could be an advantage when it takes on SMU. The Broncos also appear eager to get back on the right track to extend their season.

    "I think the group I have is excited to play and I think they want to play," Boise State coach Leon Rice said, per B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press. "I think we're going to be in a good place and be ready to go. Now it's just a matter of letting the fur fly and being tough enough to try to get this job done, because it's going to be hard."

    The Broncos are likely going to rely heavily on the senior leadership of guard Derrick Alston Jr., who was a first-team All-Mountain West selection this season after averaging 17.4 points in 26 games. Expect a big game from Alston on Thursday to power Boise State past SMU and into the NIT quarterfinals.

    Prediction: Boise State 74, SMU, 62


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