Monday, November 14, 2005

NIT Season Tip-Off Preview

The most well-known preseason tournament, the Preseason NIT will now be known by a different name. As a result of the its acquisition by the NCAA, it is now called the NIT Season Tip-Off. However, as usual, the tournament has some of the top teams in the country and will still have the semi-finals and the championship game in New York City at Madison Square Garden.

This season's bracket is unbalanced. At the top of the bracket, preseason #1 Duke has absolutely no competition to get to the finals, while the bottom half has Top 25 teams Alabama, Memphis, and UCLA, in addition to Temple. The potential second-round game of Missouri vs. Princeton is not very appealing, and I am not sure why the chairperson would have these two teams next to each other in the bracket. However, a game like Memphis-Alabama makes for some very interesting quarterfinal match-ups.

Duke draws Boston University in the first round. BU lost a lot from last season, and Duke is, well, Duke. They will move on to the second round. Manhattan or Seton Hall will get to play the Blue Devils in the second round. C.J. Anderson is one of the most underrated fowards in the country, and the Jaspers have several other options on offense. Seton Hall has Kelly Whitney down low, but no one to match-up with Anderson. Manhattan gets the win. Sam Houston State is led by guard Chris Jordan, but Missouri is in the Big 12 and just has better overall talent. The Tigers will get the victory. Mizzou gets the winner of Drexel-Princeton. Both teams lost a lot from last season. Drexel has a nice inside-outside combo in Bashir Mason and Chaz Crawford, while Princeton counters with Luke Owings and a host of solid role players. Princeton has a few more options and are a better defensive team than the Dragons.

On the lower half of the bracket, SEC contender Alabama faces Miami (Ohio). This is the country's first chance to see how the Tide's four forward lineup works out. They will have plenty of chances to work out the kinks in an easy win. Memphis plays host to last year's Cinderella team, UW-Milwaukee. The Tigers are one of this year's trendy picks to make the jump from NIT to Sweet 16. Darius Washington and Rodney Carney are an excellent duo. The Panthers lose Ed McCants, but have a very tough forward in Joah Tucker. Carney and Shawne Williams will shut down Tucker, and Memphis will get the W. Temple may have the easiest first round game, against Army. Mardy Collins starts his All-American campaign in a blowout victory. UCLA draws New Mexico State at the bottom of the bracket. They have excellent perimeter talent, led by Jordan Farmar. The Bruins won't have much trouble dispatching the transfer-infused Aggies.

The quarterfinals in the upper half of the bracket are going to be an extension of the first round--blowouts for the main teams. Duke will likely get Manhattan, and will have another easy win. DeMarcus Nelson have to slow down CJ Anderson for the Blue Devils. Missouri will face Princeton. The versatility of Missouri and the overall perimeter talent will be too much for Princeton. Down at the bottom, Memphis-Alabama may be the best game of the entire tournament. Ronald Steele will battle Darius Washington in an excellent sophomore point guard match-up. Super freshman Shawne Williams will have to defend Chuck Davis in what should be an advantage for the Tide. Rodney Carney on the wing will be key for Memphis. 'Bama might not have anyone to defend him. He will lead the Tigers to a victory. UCLA will get a tough test from Temple. Mardy Collins against Jordan Farmar will be an unbelievable point guard match-up. The difference will be the supporting cast--UCLA has a much better one.

Once in New York City, Duke will have another easy game against Missouri. I'm guessing the NIT committee wanted the whole mentor vs. protege thing with Mike Krzyzewski and Quin Snyder. They can hype that all they want, but the fact is that the game is going to be a blowout. In the other semi-final game, Memphis takes on UCLA. Darius Washington against Jordan Farmar will be a battle of sophomore point guards. Aaron Afflalo is tough on the wing for the Bruins, and Cedric Bozeman is very versatile. Memphis has Rodney Carney on the wing, with Shawne Williams at the other forward. Bozeman will have to lock down Carney, although UCLA has no one that can match-up with Williams. That could be the difference in what is going to be a tight game. Memphis has a lot of talent that few teams can match.

One team that can match the talent level of Memphis is Duke. And they will demonstrate that in the Championship. JJ Redick is going to have a huge advantage over whoever Memphis decides to put at the two-guard across from him. However, If Rodney Carney defends Redick, he could have a tough time. I don't think that Carney will want to chase JJ around all game, though. Darius Washington may have an advantage at the point over Sean Dockery and Greg Paulus, but an even bigger edge will go to Duke in the low post. Shelden Williams should absolutely dominate the interior for the Blue Devils. Joey Dorsey will try his best, but he just can't defend him. Shawne Williams against Josh McRoberts will be a very good freshman forward match-up. Redick on the outside and Williams on the inside will be too much. Duke will start the season with an NIT Championship.

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