No. 7 Seed Look to Upset NIT Title Favorite
No. 7 Utah Valley (28-8) and No. 4 UAB (28-9) meet in a heavyweight mid-major clash in the NIT semifinals. Both teams rank in the top 64 of Kenpom ratings and feature excellent guard play. UAB, which is the favorite to win the tournament at +240, is favored by three points, per college basketball lines.
After disappointing finishes in their conference tournaments, both teams have gone on a tear in the NIT, going 3-0 outright and against the spread (ATS). Will Utah Valley’s underdog story continue with an upset over UAB? Before making our college basketball picks, here’s everything you need to know for Tuesday’s matchup.
Utah Valley Embraces Underdog Role
The Wolverines were one of the nation’s top mid-major teams. Utah Valley falling short of the NCAA Tournament was one of the surprise headlines in college basketball news during conference tournaments. After an early exit in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, the Wolverines have shown impressive determination in the NIT.
They have won the last three games by an average margin of 10.7 points. The offense is red-hot, averaging 79.3 points in the tournament while shooting 49.5% from the field and 40.4% on 3-pointers. Each mark is well above Utah Valley’s season average, especially the 3-point shooting. It ranks 189th at 33.6% from deep. Leading scorer Justin Harmon (13.9 points) is averaging 22.3 points in the NIT, including 32 points in the first round. Harmon is shooting 6 of 12 from three in the tournament.
Justin Harmon catching ankles 😱@UVUmbb | #NIT2023 | #NITMBB
📺 ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/wGzHHUP9Hv
— NITMBB (@NITMBB) March 23, 2023
Despite impressive scoring numbers, the sportsbook has the Wolverines with the highest odds to win the tournament (+300). UAB’s offense could be a problem. It ranks 10th at 80.3 points per game, and Utah Valley is 129th in allowed points per game.
UAB Dominating with Defense
The UAB Blazers were thoroughly dominated in the Conference USA Tournament championship with a 78-56 loss against Florida Atlantic. Since then, UAB has covered three consecutive games with an average scoring margin of 18 points.
The offense typically grabs the spotlight with more than 80 points per game. Plus, guard Jordan Walker (22.5 points) is one of college basketball’s top scorers. However, the defense has led the way in the NIT. In fact, the Blazers shot only 37.5% from the field in the 67-59 win against Vanderbilt. UAB held the Commodores to 33.3% shooting and 25.8% from three. During the tournament, opponents are shooting 35.4% and 24% on 3-pointers.
This is a dramatic improvement compared to the Blazers’ season average of opponents shooting 41.2% (36th) and 31.9% from deep (67th). This is why NCAA lines favor UAB to win the NIT. The Blazers’ offense is capable of more. Walker is shooting only 28.9% in the last three, compared to his season average of 41.1% shooting.
Utah Valley vs UAB Game Injuries
Utah Valley vs UAB Head-to-Head
The programs met once in 2019, which Utah Valley covered with a 66-55 win.
Utah Valley vs UAB Game Information
- Game: Utah Valley (28-8) vs UAB (28-9)
- Location: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, NV
- Day/Time: Tuesday, March 28, 9:30 p.m. ET
- Utah Valley vs UAB Live Stream: TBS.com
Utah Valley vs UAB Betting Lines
Utah Valley vs UAB Picks and Prediction
Utah Valley’s weakness for most of the season was offense, as it ranks 117th in efficiency. With the Wolverines posting great shooting numbers in the tournament, this is a dangerous team. They are getting great guard play and rank fifth in opponent shooting percentage.
UAB is not an efficient offense, ranking 127th in field goal percentage. Plus, Walker has struggled with his shot. The Blazers are all about pace with the 32nd-quickest tempo. If Utah Valley can make this a slow, defensive game, it can move on to the title game. Take the Wolverines to cover Las Vegas odds’ three-point spread.
UAB is listed at -160 in our Las Vegas college basketball lines. This means that if you wager $100 on the Blazers, you have a chance to win $63. Utah Valley is +140, offering a chance to win $140 on a $100 wager.
The implied probability attached to the betting lines gives UAB a 61.54% chance to win, with the Wolverines at 41.67%.
The odds and predictions in the article are based on the time of writing and publication. They may differ as to when the actual event takes place.