Tuesday, March 28, 2006

NIT Final Four Preview

Louisville vs. South Carolina: The Cardinals, projected to be one of the top teams in college basketball headed into the season, had been a major disappointment, but can partly make up for it with an NIT title. For the Gamecocks, their eyes are on a second-straight NIT championship. Louisville has more talent than most teams that they go up against, but that obviously has not mattered much this season. Taquan Dean is one of the top shooters in the country, but did not really develop into the go-to-scorer that the Cardinals needed. Brandon Jenkins is much-improved from last season, and is now a solid scorer in addition to a good defender. On the inside, Juan Palacios has been solid on the inside, but has disappeared at key times. He is a decent inside-outside threat. Two freshmen have made key contributions, including athletic freak Terrence Williams and lightning-quick point guard Aaron McGee. South Carolina rode an SEC Tournament finals run into another appearance at Madison Square Garden. They are athletic, crash the boards, and play solid defense. Their backcourt is one of the more underrated ones in the country. Tre Kelley, averaging 17 points per game in the NIT, is a good all-around player, while Tarence Kinsey, putting up over 18 a game in the NIT, can do a variety of things on the court. Renaldo Balkman played the best basketball of his career down the stretch of the season. However, he left their previous game against Cincinnati in the second half with an injury. Brandon Wallace is a very good shot-blocker who is playing well lately. Rocky Trice is another athletic player on the wing.

Both teams are athletic and can play at varying styles. The difference is going to be Louisville’s inside-outside balance—especially if Balkman is out for South Carolina. Taquan Dean will do his job on the perimeter, while Palacios poses match-up problems down low. The Gamecock’s bid for a second-straight NIT title ends here.

Prediction: Louisville 63, South Carolina 59

Michigan vs. Old Dominion: Another CAA team in the Final Four? Although less impressive than George Mason’s run to the NCAA Final four, #5 seed Old Dominion went on the road and upset several higher-rated teams including conference rival Hofstra. Michigan, on the other hand, built off their disappointment of being left out of the NCAA Tournament and has been impressive in their run to the NIT Final Four. The Wolverines slumped down the stretch and were one of the last teams out of the Big Dance. Daniel Horton is one of the best point guards in the country and is a good scorer and passer. Wings Dion Harris and Lester Abram are both athletic scorers who can get to the basket. Harris is putting up 16 ppg in the NIT. Up front, Courtney Sims has a lot of potential and has shown it at times. However, at other times, he fails to show up—which just happens to be in most of Michigan’s losses. Chris Hunter is a solid all-around player down low, while Graham Brown is a garbage-type player that gets rebounds. Old Dominion came into the season as the favorite to win the CAA but never lived up to the expectations. They finished 4th in the conference and lost in the first round of the conference tournament. However, like Louisville, they can make up for some of that disappointment with two wins here at Madison Square Garden. Alex Loughton is one of the better big men in the mid-major world and can really take over a game. Arnaud Dahi is a match-up problem at the forward spot with his athletic ability. Isaiah Hunter was unstoppable against Hofstra and is the team’s leading scorer. Guards Drew Williamson, a very good passer, and Brian Henderson, a solid all-around player, are two decent role players that help the Monarchs gets wins. Valdas Vasylius is versatile, inside-outside threat at the forward spot.

Neither team lived up to their preseason expectations, but would still love to win the NIT. The match-up inside is going to be key with Courtney Sims going against Alex Loughton. I think that, in the end, Michigan’s host of weapons on the offensive end is going to make the difference. Daniel Horton could be in for a big game.

Prediction: Michigan 73, Old Dominion 68


  1. Now looking at how the NIT has played out and the NCAA tournament, do you still think any team was robbed?

    Looks like George Mason deserved a bid...but if Hofstra beat them twice should they have gone and maybe Seton Hall stayed home?

  2. I still think Hofstra and Cincinnati should have been in, and Air Force and Utah State should have been in the NIT.

    Both Cincy and Hofstra played well in the NIT, while AFA and USU were far from impressive in the NCAA Tournament.

  3. Moreover, Missouri State should have received a bid to the Big Dance as well.

    I would have said George Mason shouldn't be in it (which i did at the time), but now I look pretty dumb for saying they didn't deserve a bid.

  4. Couldnt agree more Cincinnati and Hofstra still should have been in.

    Replace Air Force with a midmajor that deserved to go in Hofstra- and Utah State with Cinci.

    I think the committee did a good job but those were some serious oversites.