NIT Previews



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

Given the success of our key indicator stat in the conference tournaments (you KNOW how RED HOT we've been here at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK in college hoops!), we've decided t put together a brief outline of the NIT brackets using the same number.

In today's report you'll the two-point defense marks for all 32 teams participating in the NIT. Many of the first round games are TONIGHT, and you should study these numbers before making any decisions (particularly in the TV games that you may find irresistible).

Once postseason play begins, with all the different conferences going head-to-head for the first time in months, we also find it very helpful to include a 'strength of conference' adjustment. If two teams both allow 44% for the year on two-pointers, but one is doing that in a great conference while their opponent is doing it in a very poor conference...well, we trust you know you have to adjust for that information. We've included a 'conference edge' estimate for you with each game.

Instead of going in rotation order, we wanted to outline everything for you in order of the brackets. We may not have time or space to come back to the NIT for several days depending on how news breaks in the NCAA we wanted to post EVERYTHING for the NIT in this one report. You can print it out today and keep it handy for the next couple of weeks.

What about the College Insider Tournament? We'll that event trim down a bit before getting involved in the NOTEBOOK. It's a lesser priority event, and the early round games in particular are of little interest outside the schools involved. Sure, if JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK sees an edge in one of those games, we'll pass it along to paying clients. Here in the NOTEBOOK, we'll focus on the NCAA first, the NIT second, and anything else as time and space permit.

Here now are the two-point defense numbers for all 32 teams in the NIT...


(8) Stony Brook 46%
(1) Illinois 45%
Conference Edge: Illinois by 15

(5) Tulsa 43%
(4) Kent 48%
Conference Edge: Tulsa by 3

(6) Illinois State 47%
(3) Dayton 44%
Conference Edge: Dayton by 1

(7) Weber State 48%
(2) Cincinnati 45%
Conference Edge: Cincinnati by 14

Top Quarter Notes: Illinois is the favorite, but has to play on the road in the first round ironically. They should still be able to handle Stony Brook unless they're so depressed from getting snubbed by the Big Dance that they step on a rock. This is actually a very strong quarter. Kent won the MAC regular season title. Weber State won the Big Sky regular season title. Dayton thought it was a Dance team until very recently. Cincinnati just missed playing its way into the NCAA's last week. Illinois State had a nice year in the always dangerous Missouri Valley Conference. Tulsa plays rock solid defense. Good group.

Frankly, we wouldn't be surprised at whoever outside of Stony Brook and Weber State wins this section. There are conspiracy theorists who believe the NIT shades things toward certain schools and TV markets. Well, it's really hard to go wrong in terms of TV ratings with Illinois and Ohio so well represented.


(8) Jacksonville 48%
(1) Arizona State 44%
Conference Edge: Arizona State by 13

(5) Texas Tech 48%
(4) Seton Hall 47%
Conference Edge: Even

(6) St. John's 46%
(3) Memphis 45%
Conference Edge: St. John's by 9

(7) Troy 48%
(2) Mississippi 44%
Conference Edge: Ole Miss by 12

Second Quarter Notes: Odd mix here of East meets West, with the NIT surely hoping that either Seton Hall or St. John's can win the section and guarantee a big home game for the Final Four. We haven't been very impressed watching top seeds Arizona State or Ole Miss in big games this year. As with the first group, several teams have a real shot. Handicappers will also get an early sense of the Big 12's strength based on that Texas Tech/Seton Hall game.

Here seems like a good place to mention the importance of using the 'hustle' stats in the first games to get a sense of who's most motivated to win the tournament. That's been a great strategy for us in the past. If somebody outside the top two plays with enthusiasm, they might take you all the way to New York. Of a top seed advances with lethargic stats vs. a small college team, they're often upset fodder in the next round.


(8) Quinnipiac 44%
(1) Virginia Tech 44%
Conference Edge: Virginia Tech by 20

(5) Northeastern 44%
(4) Connecticut 42%
Conference Edge: UCONN by 14

(6) Nevada 47%
(3) Wichita State 46%
Conference Edge: Wichita State by 3

(7) Northwestern 49%
(2) Rhode Island 51%
Conference Edge: Northwestern by 4

Third Quarter Notes: Quite a mixed bag here. Some might argue it's the weakest of the four groups. We're very down on the ACC this year, so having Virginia Tech as a top seed in the NIT is a stretch from our point of view. Second seeded Rhode Island is VERY soft inside defensively. You know how we HATE that. Connecticut hasn't played like the cared in about three weeks.

We're guessing the NIT is rooting most for UCONN to reach New York, assuming they get their act together, or maybe somebody like Northwestern who can bring the Chicago TV audience and a Cinderella storyline (the only major conference team never to reach the Big Dance has a chance to win the NIT!).


(8) Jackson State 44%
(1) Mississippi State 42%
Conference Edge: Mississippi State by 18

(5) William & Mary 46%
(4) North Carolina 45%
Conference Edge: North Carolina by 9

(6) NC State 46%
(3) South Florida 47%
Conference Edge: South Florida by 3

(7) Coastal Carolina 45%
(2) Alabama-Birmingham 45%
Conference Edge: UAB by 10

Bottom Quarter Notes: The NIT likes regional balance, so they're hoping a name team from the South survives this group. Obviously North Carolina is the dream solution. Imagine North Carolina and Connecticut both reaching the Garden! South Florida is in the Big East. The brackets could certainly end up having a very strong Big East flavor several days from now.

One of the advantages to having a relatively 'soft' bubble in the NCAA Tournament this year featuring a lot of teams who could make okay (but not great) cases for the Big Dance is that you have a very deep field of teams people have been talking about in the NIT.

*Every #1 and #2 seed in the NIT entered last week thinking they had a good chance to reach the Big Dance. Most were either one win away...or in some instances, just a few seconds away (Illinois and Miss. State lost heartbreakers in overtime to Ohio State and Kentucky--with Miss. State being a huge ATS winner for us in our Sunday board sweep!).

*Every #3 seed was at least in the discussion in recent weeks if not actually on the bubble.

*Connecticut and Seton Hall were in the discussion, and they're #4 seeds.

This is basically a nice and solid conference tournament! Many of the teams you watched play thrillers last weekend will be playing thrillers again.

We won't get too specific about what we're expecting in this event right now. We have to protect the opening game lines for our paying customers. We CAN assure you that some VERY BIG stuff is on tap Tuesday and Wednesday Night in the opening rounds. We always use the NIT to help build our bankrolls for the first big weekend in the NCAA's. This year will be no exception.

You can sign up for our full postseason package by calling 1-800-323-4453. Game day releases can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.

That recent 20-7-1 run you've been reading about (74%!) was just the beginning of JIM HURLEY'S postseason rampage!


This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by and For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.


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