The NIT tournament is usually an afterthought for bettors when it comes to college basketball in March.
While everyone gets caught up with the hoopla surrounding the NCAA Tournament, I believe the real value lies in betting on the NIT.
In the NIT, teams are busting their butts to prove to the committee they should have been invited to the Big Dance.
The Championship Game, which goes tonight at Madison Square Garden, pits one of the best defensive teams in the nation, Valparaiso, against George Washington, who has a top-30 offense based on adjusted efficiency.
Both teams head into this Championship Game on opposite ends of the spectrum. Valparaiso dominated BYU in the first half of the game but then had to hold on for dear life just to eek out a two-point win.
The Colonials dominated one of the better defensive teams in the nation from start to finish. They built a 15-point half time lead and coasted to an easy 19-point victory against San Diego State.
The line for this Championship Game opened at Valpo -1 but has been bet up to Valpo -2 .
As always, our friends at 5dimes have got you covered for odds and lines.
No. 4 George Washington vs. No. 1 Valparaiso Crusaders
Madison Square Garden, New York. 7 p.m. EST. Tuesday March 29, 2016
The line: Valparaiso (-2)
History: These teams have never met in the history of their programs.
This is the Colonials' sixth appearance in the NIT. This is the first time they have reached the Championship Game and currently sit with a record of 27-10 on the season.
Their path to the finals has been a tricky one, having to navigate the likes of Hofstra, Monmouth, Florida and San Diego State - two of those teams could have possibly been selected for the NCAA Tournament. Their four NIT wins are by an average of 10.5 points.
They are led by Tyler Cavanaugh, who has been stellar during the Colonials' NIT run. The junior forward is averaging 21.3 points and 9.8 rebounds in the four NIT games while making 10-of-20 3-point attempts. He's scored double figures every game this year. Cavanaugh averages a team-best 16.9 points, while senior guard Patricio Garino (14.1) and senior forward Kevin Larsen (12.1 points, team-leading 8.4 rebounds) also are averaging in double digits.
The Colonials improved to 72 -11 under Mike Lonergan when leading at halftime. However, they are only 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS on a neutral court this season.
The Crusaders come into the NIT Championship Game fresh off securing the program's first 30-win season in school history. Now they turn their focus to extending the record to 31 by claiming their first-ever NIT championship banner.
The Crusaders are playing in their first-ever NIT title game and are doing so on the back of a 70-72 win over BYU.
Many pundits had this team penciled in for a spot in the NCAA Tournament after they dominated the Horizon League (16-2) and won it entirely by three full games. However, a loss in the Horizon League semi-finals to a mediocre Green Bay team left the Crusaders in limbo without the automatic bid, and ultimately their resume didn't appeal to the committee.
The Crusaders pride themselves on the defensive end of the court and are holding teams to an average of 63 points per game. They love to slow the pace down and limit the number of possessions their opponents have throughout the course of the game. They much prefer to set up shop in the paint, forcing the outside shooters to beat them. I don't blame them considering they have Vashil Fernandez, who leads the nation in blocks (114) and who holds the all-time school record (284).
Valparaiso is averaging almost 77 points per game but has only two players that average double figures. Like George Washington, Valpo's go-to is a forward by the name of Alec Peters.
Peters averages 18.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game to pace the Crusaders. He shoots 51 percent from the field, better than 42 percent from three and just over 82 percent from the free-throw line.
For the season, the Crusaders are 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS on a neutral court. The O/U sits at 1-1 for those two games.
George Washington is 4-1 ATS in their last five nonconference games.
The "over" is 6-1 in George Washington's last seven games.
Valparaiso is 5-2 ATS in their last seven neutral-site games and 2-5 ATS in their last seven games.
The over is 4-1 in the last five games following an ATS loss for Valparaiso
For the second consecutive game, George Washington finds themselves up against one of the top defenses in the nation. They passed their first test with flying colors as they were able to put up 65 points but, more importantly, limit SDSU to only 46.
While SDSU's offense is much less talented than that of Valpo's, I think the key to victory for the Colonials is pressuring the ball handler for the entire 40 minutes.
I watched every minute of the Valpo-BYU game, and in the second half when BYU turned up the defensive pressure, Valpo looked lost and wasn't able to run their offense with much success.
A similar game plan from GW would greatly benefit them as they aren't one of the best half-court defenses in the country.
The second key to victory is which star forward can outplay his opponent. Both teams boast star forwards that are playing out of their mind this NIT. For the Colonials it's Cavanaugh and for the Crusaders it's Peters. Both are offensively-skilled guys who have a similar talent level.
This game is tricky to pick. Defense does win championships, but the offensive difference between the two teams can't be overstated. GW has put up plenty of points against every team on the way to the Championship Game, and I believe they can continue that production tonight.
While Valparaiso is stout defensively, I don't believe they have the supporting cast needed to keep up with the Colonials.
Pick: George Washington ML +115
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