2012 College Basketball: NIT Odds and Betting Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 3/13/2012
It used to be that the NIT was a big deal — a tournament that teams cared about. There may still be some teams that care, but most fans sure don’t. Still, it’s another tournament to bet on, and it gets far less public attention than the NCAA Tournament so value could be easier to find — especially if you like betting on favorites.
I’m going to make six 2012 NIT Predictions, but before I do let’s cover the basics. The field is made up of 32 teams split into four regions of eight teams. Teams that win their regular season conference championships but don’t get an automatic or at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament are given an automatic NIT bid. That accounts for 11 teams this year, including the rare case of a major conference regular season champion — the Pac-12’s Washington Huskies. The rest of the field is all at-large teams.
The first three rounds are played on the home court of the higher-seeded team, with the semis and the finals played at Madison Square Garden on March 27 and 29. Now, on to those predictions:
1. Washington will continue to embarrass their conference — The Pac-12 has been a disgrace this year, and Washington will continue that trend here. They finished their season with a whimper. Though they are a No. 1 seed they have a tough Regional, and will be challenged by Northwestern, LSU, Dayton, or Iowa.
2. Iowa will pull off an upset — No. 7 Iowa got a very lucky break. They play No. 2 Dayton in the first round, but because the NCAA play-in games (I refuse to call them the first round like the NCAA wants me to) are in Dayton at the same time this one will be in Iowa. The Hawkeyes won four of their last five at home, looked solid in a very tough Big Ten, and had a nice win in the Big Ten Tournament. The wildly-popular Matt Gatens gets one more home game in unexpected fashion, and that will be a huge boost for him and this team.
3. Minnesota will win at least two games — The Gophers had a rough second half of their conference season, but they found their heart again in the Big Ten Tournament. They beat Northwestern in a very impressive showing, and then gave Michigan all they could handle before losing in overtime. It was the first time since Trevor Mbakwe was hurt at the end of November that they played to their potential. I expect them to carry that momentum forward through a bracket that isn’t particularly tough.
4. Seton Hall will be playing angry — The Pirates are a No. 1 seed, but they likely feel like they should be in the NCAA Tournament field. I agree. The team struggled with consistency, but they were 8-10 in a tough conference, and they had a very nice win over Georgetown just three weeks ago. They gave eventual Big East Champions Louisville a run for their money in the second round of the Big East Tournament, too. They don’t have a very tough NIT bracket — I’m not impressed by Drexel despite their bubble status — and I expect the team to make the short trip from New Jersey to Manhattan for the Final Four of this tournament.
5. Nevada will make a nice run — I think it’s an insult that the Wolf Pack was only given a No. 5 seed. They won 25 games, and won the WAC. It wasn’t the toughest conference, but they did go 13-1. They also had nice wins over Washington and Arizona State in consecutive games, and they beat NCAA Tournament team New Mexico State twice. Deonte Burton, Malik Burton, and Olek Czyz anchor a well-balanced attack, and make this team hard to play against. They open with a long trip to Oklahoma to play Oral Roberts, but they can win that game, and they can beat Arizona as well. All in all, this is a team that has the chance to play their way to New York City despite their low seed.
6. And the winner is... Tennessee — The Vols are a No. 1, and they are going to ride that seeding all the way to the end. Cuonzo Martin has done a remarkable job in his first year with this team after taking over for the disgraced and fired Bruce Pearl. It took a while for them to get rolling, but they wound up winning eight of their last nine to finish 10-6 in the SEC, which was good for second in the conference. They beat Florida twice and beat Vanderbilt in the last game of the season. They faltered in the SEC Tournament, but they’ll learn from that, and I expect them to be ready for this challenge.
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