Professional Bettor Micah Joe’s NIT Betting Preview
While most of the nation is focusing on the NCAA tournament, professional bettors will be taking advantage of any soft lines posted on the NIT (as well as the CIT and CBI). The motivation of each individual team is a factor for some bettors. I have never been able to pinpoint which teams want to be in the NIT and which teams are ready to be done for the year. So I just assume everyone wants to play and go from there. There are some experimental rules to account for, but all teams are subjected to them and have an equal opportunity to benefit. So, as usual, better coaches are preferred.
The NIT reserves a spot for each regular season champion that doesn’t make the NCAA tournament and the rest are at-large bids. The teams are seeded in four quadrants, with the first four teams out of the NCAA tournament as the #1 seeds. Except for occasional scheduling conflicts, the higher-seeded teams will be designated as home teams until the Final Four, played at Madison Square Garden. Unlike the NCAA tournament, it’s important to factor home/road dichotomy into handicapping these games. Since there are no quadrant names, they will simply be labeled by the #1 seeds.
UNC Greensboro Quadrant
Greensboro led Wofford in the So-Con championship game with ten minutes to go but eventually lost. The Spartans were second best all year in a crowded S-oCon lineup. Wes Miller’s veteran squad was 14-1 at home, losing only to Wofford. It’s going to take a monumental effort for someone to come into Greensboro Coliseum and upset UNCG. First round opponent Campbell boasts scoring sensation Chris Clemons but ranks 273rd in KenPom defense. Davidson or Lipscomb could be worthy adversaries in the second round but neither have been playing well of late. The sleeper team form the other side of the bracket is Hofstra, who also has a dynamic scorer. I can see UNCG cruising to the NIT semis in MSG.
17-15 and 8-12 in the Big Ten gets you on the bubble and then a #1 seed in the NIT? What a joke. The Hoosiers are lucky to get St. Francis PA in the first round as the Red Flash are a miserable #322 in KenPom defense. Archie Miller’s squad will run out of luck in the second round as the Hoosiers should face Providence as news came from Arkansas that star Center Daniel Gafford was out of the NIT for personal reasons (very likely he doesn’t want to risk millions of dollars playing in the NIT; hard to blame him). Providence is just the tough, gritty, hard-nosed team the Hoosiers will have trouble with.
Clemson has a relatively easy path to the quadrant final. Playing at home against a Wright State team that struggled defensively and on the road (6-11) should garner a win. In the second round only a lack of motivation could prevent The Tigers from advancing to the quadrant final. Clemson is the highest ranking KenPom team (#30) to be excluded from the NCAA tournament. Brad Brownell’s squad ranked 2nd in the ACC on defense and 10th nationally. This is a high-quality major program with experienced players and the best defense in the NIT. Clemson should grind their way to Madison Square Garden and the semis.
TCU should dispatch of Sam Houston State rather easily and likely face a streaking Nebraska team in the next round. Nebraska is at home against a Butler team that finished the season poorly. Nebraska has plenty of momentum after two wins in the Big Ten Tournament but Jamie Dixon has experience in the NIT. The Horned Frogs took the title in 2017, Dixon’s first season in Fort Worth. Home court advantage should pull the Frogs through to the quadrant final.
I don’t trust an unpredictable Memphis team in this tournament. San Diego starts four seniors and comes in with plenty of confidence after winning three games in the West Coast conference tournament. This is a live dog that played well against Saint Mary’s in the semis but eventually tired and gave way. The Toreros expected more of this season and must feel like they have a new lease on life. Sam Schroll’s team will defend for forty minutes and get the upset in Memphis. Creighton and Loyola Chicago will provide little resistance in the next round. In fact I expect to see San Diego in the semis in New York after winning three road games in the coming weeks.
What a joke, Part II. 18-15 and 8-10 in the SEC and you get a #1 seed in the NIT. Luckily for the Crimson Tide, Norfolk State hails from the worst conference in the nation and are ranked no better than #200 offensively or defensively. The second round marks the end of the road for Avery Johnson and crew when they face a hot Colorado team. Tad Boyle has the Buffs rolling and McKinley Wright is playing as well as anyone.
The other side of the bracket has another disappointing power conference team with an 8-10 conference record in Texas. Don’t be surprised if the Longhorns make an early exit at the hands of Mike Daum and South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits will likely face a very hot Xavier team that should defeat Toledo in the battle of Ohio teams. Look out for the Musketeer next year as Travis Steele had his young group playing their best basketball at the end of the season.
The winner between Colorado and Xavier is a toss-up with Xavier getting the slight edge at home. These are my best two teams in the 2019 version of the NIT, and I expect one of them to cut down the nets in New York.