NIT Championship Game Preview

IT'S MIAMI VS. STANFORD FOR ALL THE NIT MARBLES THURSDAY NIGHT AT MSG IN NEW YORK

Tuesday night's semifinals weren't exactly thrillers, as Miami and Stanford survived Temple and Old Dominion respectively in slow, sloppy, poor shooting disappointments. So much for the shorter shot clock making college basketball more exciting! Missing shots faster isn't great TV.

They may not have been works of art. But, the games were at least compelling...as Miami rallied from a second half deficit to advance to the finals...while Stanford blew all of an early 20-4 lead before rebounding to win by seven. Let's run the numbers from Tuesday...then check JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats for this title tilt.

Miami 60, Temple 57
Shooting Pct: Miami 39%, Temple 30%
Three-Pointers: Miami 6/21, Temple 2/19
Free Throws: Miami 8/11, Temple 17/22
Rebounds: Miami 45, Temple 41
Turnovers: Miami 11, Temple 6

So, Miami shot poorly, didn't hit many bombs, couldn't get to the free throw line, and lost the turnover category...but still won! That was thanks to even worse shooting from Temple...keyed by that ridiculous 2 of 19 performance behind the arc. Did Temple think they were playing in the dome in Houston?! Miami does deserve credit for defensive intensity, and poise down the stretch. They were the #2 seed in their section of the draw. They just knocked out a pair of #1 seeds to reach the finals (at Richmond, then here in MSG vs. Temple).

Stanford 67, Old Dominion 60
Shooting Pct: Stanford 49%, Old Dominion 34%
Three-Pointers: Stanford 7/14, Old Dominion 3/19
Free Throws: Stanford 22/28, Old Dominion 15/25
Rebounds: Stanford 35, Old Dominion 36
Turnovers: Stanford 14, Old Dominion 6

Wow...Old Dominion also couldn't throw the ball in the ocean from long range. How did they rally from that early 16-point deficit? Looks like it was by way of turnovers. Stanford gave away a lot of possessions...but did score relatively easily when they held onto the ball. Good all-around game from Stanford except for the giveaways. And, a fairly strong condemnation of ODU as a #1 seed, and in any way "deserving" of a Dance ticket. ODU was lucky to survive Murray State in the quarters, and was exposed as a pretender in the semi's.

Given ONLY those two games, Stanford looks like the better team. They're the only guys who can shoot! Let's dig a lot deeper with the full season efficiency stats that we like to grab from Ken Pomeroy's great college basketball website.

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Miami: 109.8 per 100 possessions (#46 in the nation)
Stanford: 111.5 per 100 possessions (#29 in the nation)

Stanford has the better offense, though Miami usually performs better than they did Tuesday. This is consistent with Stanford being the better team. Stanford had a Dance caliber offense, and Miami was borderline in terms of bubble quality.

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Miami: 98.2 per 100 possessions (#85 in the nation)
Stanford: 99.0 per 100 possessions (#99 in the nation)

Miami counteracts Stanford's offensive advantage right here...though it's the worst side of the floor for both teams. Wow...Temple and ODU couldn't score and they weren't even facing good defenses! That could set up some interesting scoring potential in the championship. We have two top 50 offenses, and two defenses that barely crack the top 100. If you assume that combined three-point shooting will settle into a logical place, that could suggest an Over. Let's look at pace.

Pace Ranking
Miami: #265
Stanford: #123

Stanford is more aggressive about attacking the basket. That's why they earned so many free throws Tuesday...and what could prove to be a difference-maker Thursday. Miami will obviously try to slow things down (which worked vs. Temple). Stanford will try to attack the basket without giving the ball away too often. Imagine North Carolina vs. Miami, and you get a sense of what this one is going to look like form-wise. Can Miami's mediocre defense play two good games in a row?

Las Vegas Line: Stanford by 1.5, total of 134.5

The market is in line with the math in terms of the team side. The Over/Under has dropped from an opener of 137. So, the quants are looking for another low-scoring yawner where points are at a premium.

JIM HURLEY will be working very closely with his New York sources to make sure his clients get the right side and total Thursday night. Those guys always come through for us! You can purchase the final word for Thursday basketball (college and NBA) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours. Be sure you get your ducks in a row before baseball starts this Sunday night!

Huge weekend ahead...as the NIT hands off to the NCAA Tournament for what's shaping up as one of the most memorable Final Fours in history.  Here's what's on tap here in the NOTEBOOK in the coming days...

Friday: NCAA Final Four Early Look...Kentucky vs. Wisconsin
Saturday: NCAA Final Four Preview...Duke vs. Michigan State
Sunday: NBA Preview...Golden State vs. San Antonio (a must-see game)
Monday: NCAA Championship Preview
Tuesday: MLB Preview...Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners
Wednesday: MLB Preview...San Diego Padres at LA Dodgers
Thursday: NBA Preview...Chicago at Miami or Portland at Golden State on TNT

The basketball's going to be great...and then we jump right into early season baseball with a pair of West Division teams (Seattle in the AL, San Diego in the NL) who are getting a lot of respect in the "Regular Season Wins" marketplace as potential playoff contenders. Can either (or both) beat out the big-money powers this season?

The fun never stops because the sports schedule never stops. Keep hooking up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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