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NIT Preview: Redemption Time

NCAA Tournament Snubs Get Second Chance

Oklahoma State, Michigan Among Front-Runners

Trying to predict the games in the NCAA Tournament can be a little challenging, especially with the way things played out this season. However, doing the same in the NIT tends to be even more daunting when it comes time to make college basketball predictions.

It is hard to know which of the teams have already checked out when their names didn’t appear on the screen on Selection Sunday. The biggest college basketball news is always focused on the March Madness bracket. However, there are teams worthy of being in the field of 68 that will be vying for the NIT title.

Guard Bryce Thompson #1 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys
Guard Bryce Thompson #1 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys - John E. Moore III/Getty Images/afp

When looking at the college basketball odds, seven of the top nine teams in the odds to win the NIT come from the Power-5 conferences. That is pretty interesting since the teams outside the Power-5 conference are often the ones that come into the NIT with something to prove against higher-profile programs.

Let’s take a look at some of the teams to watch as the NIT begins with eight games on Tuesday.

The Front-Runners

Michigan and Oklahoma State lead the way with +850 odds to win the NIT according to the college basketball picks.

Oklahoma State was looked at as a possible NCAA Tournament team. However, a 6-12 record in Quad 1 games ended that dream. Losses to Southern Illinois and UCF in non-conference play did not help the Cowboys’ cause.

Not having senior guard Avery Anderson was a big blow as well as he hasn’t played since a Feb. 1 win over Oklahoma. Bryce Thompson and Kalib Boone lead the offense for Oklahoma State.

Michigan was another former national championship winning program that underachieved this season.

The Wolverines were 2-12 in Quad 1 games and inexperience could have been Michigan’s undoing with sophomore Kobe Bufkin joining freshmen Jett Howard and Dug McDaniel as the top offensive options to complement Hunter Dickinson.

One of the top teams would have been North Carolina. The Tar Heels went from playing for the national title to failing to make the NCAA Tournament in a span of 12 months despite returning four starters. North Carolina became the first team ranked first in the national polls not to make it into the NCAA Tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams and then to 68.

Other Top Contenders

Rutgers was probably the team that had the biggest beef about not being included in the NCAA Tournament. With the Scarlet Knights still trying to build something, expect a strong effort from them in this tournament.

Clemson was hurt by being part of a down season in the ACC, and losses to ACC cellar-dwelling Louisville, South Carolina and Loyola Chicago didn’t help as a 23-win team out of the ACC failed to secure a spot in the March Madness bracket.

If Villanova had Justin Moore for the entire season, it seems rather likely that the Wildcats would have been in the NCAAs and the talk would be about Villanova’s odds to win March Madness. Instead, they are a team to keep an eye on in the NIT. North Texas and UAB are other teams from outside the Power-5 conference that could make some noise.

Oregon, Washington State, Wisconsin and Virginia Tech are teams that had moments of brilliance but lacked consistency during the season.

It is Tourney Time

The action begins with eight games on Tuesday.

One of the most intriguing matchups is the Vanderbilt-Yale showdown. The Bulldogs earned a share of the Ivy League regular-season title. However, playing Princeton on the Tigers’ home court was too much to overcome. Vanderbilt had two wins over Kentucky in March and beat Tennessee in February.

Hofstra-Rutgers, Toledo-Michigan, Southern Miss-UAB, Villanova-Liberty, Bradley-Wisconsin, Eastern Washington-Washington State and Seton Hall-Colorado are the other games on Tuesday. All six teams from the Power-5 conferences in action on Tuesday are listed by the Las Vegas odds as favorites. Washington State leads the way as a 10½-point favorite.

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