"When the cat is away, the mice will play."
With the NCAA set to resume on Saturday, April 2, for the Final Four, you would think this five-day break would give bettors a time to regroup and re-examine their systems heading into the weekend.
Wrong. There is no rest for the wicked, especially in March as the NIT Tournament has two semi-finals slated for Tuesday with some very good teams taking part.
The first semi-final sees No.2 BYU take on No.1 Valparaiso in a matchup of contrasting styles.
I can make a case as to why both these teams are capable of winning this game, but my decision ultimately is based on the moniker "defense wins championships"
As always this great line is courtesy of our friends at 5dimes.
No. 2 Brigham Young Cougars vs. No. 1 Valparaiso Crusaders
Madison Square Garden, New York. 7 p.m. EST. Tuesday, March 29, 2016
History: These two teams have only met twice in the history of their existence, and this rubber match has been a very long time coming. The series is split 1-1, with Valparaiso winning in 1945 and BYU avenging that defeat four years later in 1949.
The Cougars have reached the NIT Final Four three prior times to tonight. The first two times they reached the NIT semi-finals - in 1951 and 1966 - BYU won the tournament. In 2013 they failed to beat Baylor in the semi-finals.
In the 2016 edition of the NIT, BYU has won three straight home games to set up a date with the top-ranked Valparaiso Crusaders in the Mecca of Basketball, Madison Square Garden.
Through their first three games of this tournament, the Cougars are averaging 88.3 points per game and are shooting 49.7 percent from the field, 42.6 percent from 3-point range and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line.
They have five players scoring in double-digits, with Chase Fischer leading the charge at 22 points per game, Nick Emery (16.3), Kyle Collinsworth (15.7), Zac Seljaas (12.7) and Kyle Davis (12).
The Cougars have gotten to the NIT semi's by beating UAB, Virginia Tech and Creighton. They covered the spread as favorites in the games against UAB and Creighton while failing to cover the number in a close game against Virginia Tech.
For the season the Cougars are 3-2 straight up on a neutral court and 2-3 against the spread. They are also 4-1 "Over/Under" in those five games.
When the Crusaders take the MSG court on Tuesday night, it will mark their very first school trip to the NIT semi-finals.
The Crusaders are coming off three straight home wins after a dominating second-half performance against Saint Mary's in the quarterfinals that saw them score 36 of the game's final 49 points. They were able to cover as 3.5-point favorites. Prior to that, they easily disposed of Florida State and Texas Southern.
Valparaiso is averaging almost 77 points per game but has only two players that average double-figures in scoring. Alec Peters scores around 19 points per game and Keith Carter is the other player at 10.3 ppg.
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.
For the season, the Crusaders are 0-1 SU and ATS on a neutral court. The total went over the number in that lone game.
If there was a game with a more contrasting style of play, please show it to me because you are not going to find one better than this matchup. The BYU Cougars like to get up and down the floor and put points on the board. They defeated Creighton in the quarter-finals by putting up 88 points, and they did so without their best player playing at 100 percent. Collinsworth managed only 20 minutes of floor time and put up only 10 points. Having him 100 percent healthy for Tuesday should bode well for a team that is already firing on all cylinders. The only negative for the Cougars to fix is controlling the boards. They let Creighton get 11 offensive rebounds, which resulted in 14 second-chance points. When playing a defensive-minded team such as Valpo, allowing second-chance points makes it harder to keep up on the scoreboard.
While Valpo may not have the amazing scoring ability that BYU possesses, I feel that playing on a neutral court only benefits the team with the better defense.
Usually it takes a while for a team to adjust their sight-lines and get into a rhythm in an unfamiliar environment, which is why I am backing the Crusaders to get the job done tonight and make their first ever NIT Finals.
The Crusaders have already held a supposedly good Saint Mary's team to only 44 points, 13 of those coming in the second half.
The long trip across the country should also play a factor in this game. And with Valpo owning the better/deeper bench and free-throw percentage, it only makes me like Valparaiso even more.
Pick: Valparaiso -2 -110
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