Wednesday NIT Previews

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

FINAL THREE MSG SPOTS UP FOR GRABS TONIGHT IN THE NIT

We continue our coverage of the NIT with stat previews for tonight's tripleheader that will determine the last three teams to reach the Final Four set for Madison Square Garden next Tuesday and Thursday.

As promised, we'll also run the boxscore numbers from Monday's three games that helped set up this evening's matchups. Thursday and Friday, we're back to the NCAA Tournament for extended previews of the Sweet 16. We'll do the same thing Saturday and Sunday for the Elite 8. These tournaments always move so quickly once they get started!

Here are tonight's NIT matchups, with regional seedings in parenthesis. Note that the superior seed is playing at HOME tonight. There aren't any neutral site games in the NIT until the Final Four. The majority of indicator stats came from Ken Pomeroy's great college basketball site (kenpom.com). The predicted scores at that site may still trail the market and top handicappers. But, the encyclopedia of information is a godsend to analysts who love the game.

COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (6) AT WICHITA STATE (4)

Charleston: +9.9 margin average, 47% two-point defense
Wichita St.: +10.9 margin average, 44% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Wichita State 4 points
Vegas Line: Wichita State by 8
Notebook: Wichita State was a point better per game in conference action, while playing in a conference that was eight points better. Already, we're at Wichita State as 9 points better than Charlestonbefore even factoring in home floor. We suggest about 3-4 points there. Normally we'd say four points at a site like Wichita. But, Charleston has played nothing but road games so far (Dayton and Cleveland State), and has fared very well.

As noted yesterday, Charleston was helped quite a bit by Cleveland State going 1 of 25 on three-point shots. That's probably not going to happen again, which means they'll need to play at a peak level to pull off their third straight road upset. Wichita State may be a team on a mission after getting snubbed by the NCAA tournament. But, the Missouri Valley has been a disappointment in tester games in the postseason. Missouri State lost and failed to cover at Miami the other night. Indiana State couldn't cover against the Syracuse team that subsequently lost to 11th seeded Marquette.

We'll be working very closely with our sources to determine whether the math is right and this line is too low...or whether the math has overrated the Missouri Valley and the dog is the play.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
Charleston: 67.6 possessions per game
Wichita St.: 65.1 possessions per game

This averages out to an average pace. Maybe with so much on the line it will slow down some. That plays right into Wichita State's comfort zone.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
Charleston: 32.1% of points on treys
Wichita St.: 29.4% of points on treys

Normally a mark near 33% would be a red flag vote against a road underdog. Since Charleston has just won outright twice as road underdogs, we won't use it in that way tonight. We don't think Wichita State will go 1 of 25! We'll say that much.

At least one small market team will make the trip to New York. Major conferences will send the remaining two entries...

MIAMI-FLORIDA (2) AT ALABAMA (1)

Miami: -1.8 margin average, 44% two-point defense
Alabama: +5.4 margin average, 41% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Miami 2 points
Vegas Line: Alabama by 5
Notebook: Alabama starts off as 7 points better before the conference adjustment. That comes down to five because the SEC was worse than the ACC this year by a bucket according to the computers. But, throw in 3-4 points for home court, and we've floated much higher than the Vegas number. Once again, the math points to a home favorite...in a spot where the road dog has every reason to show up with peak intensity. That's always a challenge for handicappers. We love that 41% defense of Alabama. We'll have to think about the Under with two major conferences defenses at 44% or better in what should be a playoff style game.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
Miami: 65.1 possessions per game
Alabama: 64.6 possessions per game

Both teams are below average pace-wise (which is around 66), so this is an additional factor suggesting a low scoring grinder type game. Vegas has anticipate that to a degree with a low total. Have they adjusted enough? Both teams are comfortable in grinder games, so neither will be taken out of their comfort zone.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
Miami: 33.5% of points on treys
Alabama: 19%% of points on treys

Huge differences in style here. Alabama is extremely likely to own the inside game. You'll see in a moment they used earned a lot of extra free throws Monday Night but didn't cash them in vs. New Mexico. Miami absolutely MUST hit treys to cover or pull the upset. That's arguably the whole game right there. If Miami shoots over Alabama's great inside defense, the game will be there for the taking in the final moments. If not, Alabama is very likely to jetting to New York next week as the deep South's representative.


NORTHWESTERN (4) AT WASHINGTON STATE (2)

Northwestern: -5.9 margin average, 53% two-point defense
Wash. State: +0.4 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Northwestern 4 points
Vegas Line: Washington State by 4.5
Notebook: Interesting data here. Washington State starts out as 6.5 points better...then loses four of that to the conference adjustment...but then gets 3-4 back (probably on the high end because it's a long trip) to surge past the Vegas line. Make that THREE games where the math favors the home favorite, and you have to determine if the road dog has what it takes to take a gut check game down to the wire.

The defensive differences are enormous. Northwestern hasn't been punished yet for its poor inside defense by either Wisconsin-Milwaukee or surprisingly dormant Boston College. Now they move from one coast to the other to try and outplay a superior defense. At this point in the handicapping process, it's hard to make much of a case for Northwestern. That being said, the Big Ten has enjoyed some good success in the postseason thus far. Ohio State and Wisconsin are still playing in the Dance. Michigan almost upset Duke after annihilating Tennessee. Penn State almost upset the Temple team that should have taken out second seed San Diego State. Hey, we can't forget Illinois dominating UNLV either. Only Purdue laid an egg.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
Northwestern: 64.3 possessions per game
Wash. State: 68.9 possessions per game

Big differences in style here, as a fast team is at home against a slow team. Home teams often impose their pace on a game, which means Northwestern could be in real trouble. Northwestern will have to work very hard at forcing a playoff style pace in this game, particularly given potential jet lag issues. Truly a game of extremes.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
Northwestern: 38.5% of points on treys
Wash. State: 29.1% of points on treys

Speaking of extremes, Northwestern is as trey-happy as it gets in college basketball. They're entire offense revolves around hoping treys go in...or hoping that offensive rebounds lead to easy buckets. They won that way at Boston College. Tough to string together tournament victories that way, particularly when playing in hostile territory. Washington State likes the trey themselves, but looks positively post-happy in comparison.

We expect a one-sided result here one way or the other. If Northwestern makes it treys, or forces a slow tempo on the game...they can definitely pull the upset and give some Chicago flavor to a New York tournament. If not, they'll lose by 15-20.

We can't get too specific here in the NOTEBOOK. Be aware that there IS a MAJOR RELEASE tonight in the NIT coming from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK. You can purchase it (and the whole Wednesday slate) a few hours before tipoff here at the website with your credit card.

Monday's NIT boxscores...

MIAMI-FLORIDA 81, MISSOURI STATE 72

Shooting Percentage: Missouri State 38%, Miami 50%
Three-Pointers: Missouri State 13/29, Miami 8/22
Free Throws: Missouri State 9/15, Miami 21/24
Rebounds: Missouri State 27, Miami 32
Turnovers: Missouri State 7, Miami 8
Phantom Score: Missouri State 51, Miami 68
Vegas Line: Miami by 5, total of 136
Notebook: For you newcomers, Phantom Score is two-point scoring plus rebounding. It's a secondary score we use to add context to a game. Miami won that in very decisive fashion. If Missouri State hadn't nailed a whopping 13 treys, this wouldn't have been a ball game. As it was, Miami won and covered anyway despite trailing at halftime. A good sign for Miami that they could earn so many free throws with an offense that trends toward too many treys.

ALABAMA 74, WASHINGTON STATE 67
Shooting Percentage: New Mexico 38%, Alabama 53%
Three-Pointers: New Mexico 9/28, Alabama 6/14
Free Throws: New Mexico 14/17, Alabama 16/30
Rebounds: New Mexico 28, Alabama 34
Turnovers: New Mexico 12, Alabama 13
Phantom Score: New Mexico 54, Alabama 74
Vegas Line: Alabama by 7, total of 140
Notebook: Alabama should have won a blowout according to Phantom Score. They didn't because they couldn't make a free throw to save their lives...and because new Mexico shot horribly all night. Credit the Alabama defense for that. Sometimes great defenders can't shoot free throws! That's why Alabama is in this event instead of the Dance. They have a shot to win this event though given that great defense and friendly brackets.

WASHINGTON STATE 74, OKLAHOMA STATE 64
Shooting Percentage: Oklahoma State 41%, Washington State 42%
Three-Pointers: Oklahoma State 4/19, Washington State 8/22
Free Throws: Oklahoma State 12/15, Washington State 22/26
Rebounds: Oklahoma State 29, Washington State 33
Turnovers: Oklahoma State 8, Washington State 10
Phantom Score: Oklahoma State 69, Washington State 61
Vegas Line: Washington State by 7, total of 140
Notebook: Washington State got waxed in Phantom Score...but picked up 12 points on treys and 7 more from the free throw line. We do expect the Cougars to win Phantom Score vs. Northwestern. If they can match the Wildcats in treys, they're going to win. If not...things could get very interesting.

Not only is it a busy night in the NIT, it's also a busy night in the NBA! ESPN has a great doubleheader with Orlando-New York and San Antonio-Denver. Other big games include Memphis-Boston, Atlanta-Philadelphia, Indiana-Charlotte, and Utah-Oklahoma City. JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK will help you build your bankroll for the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8 with a WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY! Purchase plays online, or call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back tomorrow with expanded stat previews of Thursday's Sweet 16 action. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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