The NIT Tournament has an impressive display for their final four teams as they are ushered into the famous Madison Square Garden. A place that is known for quality basketball for decades. It has been deemed the Mecca for basketball. This is where Washington and the other final four teams will play on Tuesday with the possibility of playing again in the championship Thursday.
While not being selected into the NCAA tournament is disheartening for teams, the idea that if they win three games, they can play in New York at the Mecca of basketball is an amazing opportunity for young athletes. It gives these “rejected” teams something to fight for, something to play for, and while it may not be the NCAA tournament it is an amazing opportunity, nonetheless.
Four teams have that opportunity on Tuesday.
- UMASS vs. Stanford at 4 pm PT on ESPN2
- Washington vs. Minnesota at 6 pm PT on ESPN2
UMASS comes in as a #5 seed and is the only team in NIT history that has landed in the final four by winning all of their games as the away team and on an away site. It wasn’t easy, they struggled through two of those three games but have found ways to win. They even came back from 17 point deficit against Drexel to move on to the final four. This is a scoring oriented team that ranks 16th in the nation in points per game. However, they struggle on defense and are one of the lowest in the nation at points allowed per game. This means most of their games are shoot-outs and lately UMASS has found ways to win. The Minutemen can shoot the three, rebound, and generate turnovers. All recipes for success late in games.
Stanford is a team that Husky fans recognize the most on this list. However, Washington only played Stanford once this season and beat them 76-63. The Cardinal lost to Cal in the Pac-12 tournament but since then has been on a tear through the NIT. They even beat a sound Nevada team 84-56. This team is known for their rebounding as they rank 18th in the country in rebounding per game. One of the reasons that this team has had an up and down season but has found success lately is that their young players in Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright are really coming on strong.
Game Prediction: Stanford may be the favorite in this game but UMASS has been winning against all odds in this NIT tournament. I think it comes down to the last few minutes and the Minutemen win out. 79-76 UMASS.
Washington a team that the majority of the readers will know backwards and forward. They are picking up big games lately from a variety of players; Abdul Gaddy, Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten, and Darnell Gant. This is a team that is clicking right now and is showing Husky fans more of what they expected after they saw the talent that this team could showcase.
Minnesota is a really hot team right now. Has been playing impressive basketball and many are saying this may be the team to beat in the NIT tournament. They have controlled all three games they have played in the NIT and they are hoping to do the same against Washington. This team is run as a defensive minded team first. Letting the defense lead to the offense. They can do a little bit of everything on the floor but nothing will blow you away. Their leading scorer is a big man, Rodney Williams. (There will be more on the Washington/Minnesota matchup on game day)
Game Prediction: Guard play will help Washington find a way to win this game. While Minnesota has been efficient at closing down other guards in the past, Washington has far too many that can do damage against the Golden Gophers. UW wins this 68-61.