Thursday, March 31, 2005

NIT Championship Preview

In what seems to be one of the least talked about NIT Championships in recent years, the St. Joseph's Hawks will take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. Neither team had much of a chance at an at-large bid going into Selection Sunday, but have made the most of their opportunity in the so-called "Not Invited Tournament."

On the perimeter, St. Joseph's may have an advantage. Dwayne Lee forced Memphis' Darius Washington into a very tough game in the semi-finals and can defend exceptionally well. Chat Stachitas is the second best scorer on the team, and has a solid mid-range game. However, the player that makes this team go is Pat Carroll, one of the top three point shooters in the country. He can single-handedly carry the Hawks in any game. Abdulai Jalloh is the lone back-up. On the other side of the ball, South Carolina is chalk full of athletic players in the backcourt. Josh Gonner and Tarence Kinsey are good scorers on the wings, while Tre Kelley is an above-average point guard, although he tends to turn the ball over too much. Rocky Trice is a decent backup swingman.

In the frontcourt, South Carolina has the edge because of the presence of Carlos Powell. One of the best players in the SEC, Powell lead the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding at about 16 and 7 per game. The 'Cocks also have solid depth in the frontcourt, as four players rotate evenly at the other positions. Antoine Tisby, Brandon Wallace and Renaldo Balkman combine for 18 points and 14 rebounds per game. St. Joseph's frontcourt is headed by Dwayne Jones, who dominated against Memphis. He is among a select group in the country that averages a double-double. Jones goes for 11 points and 12 rebounds per night. Similar to South Carolina, the Hawks have a host of forwards that rotate on the frontline. John Bryant, Robert Ferguson, and Dave Mallon provide minutes, fouls, and sparse scoring and rebounding.

Both teams have star players in the frontcourt that can dominate a game. However, St. Joseph's has better balance, with Carroll and company on the perimeter offsetting any double teams put on Jones. As a result of that, in addition to their stifling defense, the Hawks will come out victorious with the NIT Championship.
Prediction: St. Joseph's by 5

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