The Memphis Tigers and Saint Louis Billikens came a few wins short of qualifying for the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
The two programs have a chance to finish the season strong as No. 1 seeds in the 2021 NIT, which finishes first-round play on Saturday.
Over the first three days of play in Denton and Frisco, Texas, the top seeds have controlled the results, with three of the four No. 1 and No. 2 seeds moving on to the quarterfinals.
Memphis played the better basketball of late of the two top seeds in action on Saturday, so it should come out in good shape against the Dayton Flyers.
Saint Louis could be viewed as the most vulnerable of the four No. 1 seeds because of its inconsistencies over the last two months, but it could take advantage of a clash with the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who were stuck in the middle of the SEC all season.
NIT Saturday Schedule
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.
No. 1 Memphis (-4.5) vs. No. 4 Dayton (Over/Under: 137.5) (Noon ET, ESPN)
No. 1 Saint Louis (-4.5) vs. No. 4 Mississippi State (O/U: 136) (5 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Memphis 75, Dayton 64
Memphis did its best to snag a berth in the field of 68, but it fell short in the American Athletic Conference tournament semifinals.
Penny Hardaway's team won six of its last eight games, and its only two defeats came against the Houston Cougars, who landed a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The losses to Houston are notable since the Tigers were competitive for 40 minutes in each contest and lost by a combined five points.
In its last six victories, Memphis had a margin of victory of six points or more, so that leads you to believe it will cover on Saturday if it beats Dayton.
The Flyers have not won more than two games in a row since mid-January. They have six defeats in the span that dates back to January 23.
Memphis' Landers Nolley II, DeAndre Williams and Boogie Ellis could cause problems to the Dayton defense that conceded over 70 points in five of its last seven games.
In addition to those three players, Memphis has two others who average over nine points per game. If one of them gets cold, another could step up and challenge the 14-9 Flyers.
Dayton could keep the game close since it shut down the St. Bonaventure Bonnies on March 1 in a 55-52 victory.
However, that result appears to be the exception in an overall trend of results that has been inconsistent at best for the Flyers.
Dayton does not boast the same scoring depth as Memphis, and it could be at a steep disadvantage if Jalen Crutcher or Ibi Watson is silenced for long stretches.
Crutcher only had 14 points in two of Dayton's last three games against NCAA tournament qualifiers out of the Atlantic 10, and Watson only produced 10 points in the A-10 tournament loss to the VCU Rams.
If Memphis shuts down one or both, it will have an easier path to victory and could cover the 4.5-point spread.
Saint Louis 66, Mississippi State 59
Saint Louis was the team most affected by COVID-related layoffs, as it suffered a few bad losses in A-10 play following a month-long pause.
Those losses led to a damaged resume that did not stand up against some of the other bubble teams that made it into the field of 68.
The Billikens have a chance to erase that form with a run to the NIT final, and they have a favorable matchup on paper on Saturday.
Mississippi State finished with a 15-14 overall record and an 8-10 mark in SEC play. In its last game, it managed just 48 points against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Bulldogs' performances against NCAA tournament teams suggest they will struggle against Saint Louis. They were 2-6 against Big Dance qualifiers and either lost by double digits or failed to score 65 points in five of those defeats.
Javonte Perkins and Jordan Goodwin could feast on Mississippi State's weaknesses against top teams. The pair of Saint Louis players both average over 14 points per game and shoot over 43 percent from the field.
Goodwin is also one of the best backcourt rebounders in the country, as he averages 10.3 rebounds per game.
If Goodwin and big man Hasahn French produce second-chance opportunities, they could help the Billikens surge past the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State could be done in by its free-throw shooting. The Bulldogs are 64.6 percent as a team from the line, while Saint Louis shoots 70.3 percent.
The Bulldogs also face a gap in field-goal percentage, turnovers per game and three-point percentage in comparison to their Saturday foe.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.
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