The NIT Tournament continues on Monday night with second round action. Fourth seeded Middle Tennessee State University will take on the top seed Tennessee Volunteers. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start time and it will be televised nationally on ESPN and ESPN3.com. Currently the odds have Tennessee favored by 4.5 points with the total sitting at 135 points for the game.
Free Analysis: Both Middle Tennessee State and Tennessee thought they had the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. Problem was neither team made it based on RPI, strength of schedule and the like. And yet, a little more than a week after both teams were snubbed by the Big Dance, the two squads will face off in the second round of the NIT. The Volunteers are favored in this contest by nearly five points which gives us an opportunity to get at least two possessions with Middle Tennessee in this contest. The Blue Raiders won 24 games during the regular season and mounted a pretty good offensive effort by totaling 72 points per contest, which is easily in the top third of all teams in the country. Another crucial part to Middle Tennessee's offensive game is their assist ratio. The Blue Raiders are a team that gets a lot of assists on their baskets, meaning great passing and movement of the basketball. They average nearly 16 assists per game, which ranks in the Top 30 of all teams nationally. It shouldn't matter who you play or what conference you are in, if you're passing the ball with that kind of efficiency, you're going to be a hard time to beat. Another important number for Middle Tennessee is 49.6 — that's their field goal percentage for the season, which is good for fourth among all Division I basketball teams this season. Want to know how they rolled up 24 wins this season? Look no further than shooting 50% from the field. That's extremely good. More so, I think the schedule this season will probably help Middle Tennessee in this contest. The Blue Raiders played a decent schedule that included NCAA Tournament teams Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky and Belmont — all of which were losses. What's concerning about the team is their two losses in their last three games. The Blue Raiders dropped their regular season finale by getting beat by Western Kentucky and dropped their first game in the Sun Belt Tournament to Arkansas State. Sure, they got back on track by winning the opening game of the NIT over Marshall, but will they be able to continue? Tennessee struggled out of the gate, at one point sitting with a dismal record of 3-6 with losses to Austin Peay, Oakland and College of Charleston. However, they rebounded well (literally) to take fourth place in the SEC this season, winning 10 games in conference and finishing with 19 wins overall. The Vols have won five of six games overall and will be looking to advance in the NIT tonight with a win. They are a squad that rebounds the ball well but doesn't necessarily score a lot of points, averaging less than 70 per contest this season. I think that could hurt them tonight in a matchup with the Blue Raiders. Tennessee has some bruisers inside with Jeronne Mayman and Jarnell Stokes but will it be enough to keep Middle Tennessee off the glass and cause them to score less points?
Free Pick: I like the 4.5 to 5 points we are being given here with Middle Tennessee, a team that played some tough competition this season and can score a lot of points. Tennessee started the season horribly but has come back to figure things out for the most part. I'm expecting this to be a tough game but I think the Blue Raiders are going to put up a pretty good fight. They shoot the ball well and have a great team unity, passing the ball in key spots and taking care of possessions as well. I think Tennessee has an advantage inside, but I'm not sold that it will be enough to win going away in this one. I think it will be a fairly even game and I'll scoop up the points even with a Middle Tennessee team that is playing on the road.
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