The NIT Semifinals take place tonight, as the Washingtonton Huskies meet the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Madison Square Garden. The game is scheduled for a 9:00 p.m. start time and it will be televised live on ESPN2. Currently the odds have Washington favored by 1 point with the total sitting at 143 points for the contest.
Free Analysis: Minnesota has won three straight games on the road against higher seeds and so enters this semifinal matchup battle-tested. The Golden Gophers have a rich tradition in the NIT, sporting a 21-11 overall record (27-12 including vacated games in 1996 and 1998). The team won two championships in 1993 and 1998, although the latter was vacated due to an ineligible student athlete. Minnesota almost let the game slip away in the quarterfinals of the tournament against Middle Tennessee. The Golden Gophers allowed the Blue Raiders to score 14 points in under a minute, but four free throws in the waning moments preserved the victory. Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins came up big in the win, as the two tied for the team lead with 24 points apiece. Hollins (8.5 ppg) was not much of a scorer this season and he finished the season ranked fourth on the squad in that regard. Williams (12.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg) however, was the team's primary option and the only player to average in double figures. Williams also had 24 points in the quarterfinals and has had a strong postseason overall, averaging 22.0 points through the first three rounds of the tournament. Julian Welch (9.9 ppg) was held scoreless after finishing this season as the team's second leading scorer as he got into foul trouble. As a squad, Minnesota doesn't normally score at a very impressive rate, averaging 68.1 points per game. The team is more defensive-minded, allowing only 64.4. Washington won the Pac-12 regular season crown, but failed to make the cut for the NCAA Tournament field, but now have an overall record of 24-10. This is the furthest the Huskies have advanced in six all-time appearances in the NIT. Washington is the only No. 1 seed remaining in the tournament and the only one to have advanced past the second round. The Huskies won in a shootout against Pac-12 rival Oregon in the quarterfinals as they came out on top of a 90-86 decision. There were 10 ties and 13 lead changes between familiar foes Washington and Oregon in the quarterfinals. The Huskies trailed at half 46-42 but took advantage of the Ducks' poor shooting (.385) in the second half and went 19-of-23 from the free-throw line to storm back and outlast Oregon in a game that had no shortage of scoring.It's unlikely that Washington will put up 90 points again in this matchup but the Huskies may come close. On the year, the Huskies finished second in the Pac-12 and 28th nationally in scoring at 75.9 points per game. Defensively the Huskies aren't as strong, surrendering 70.1 points per game despite ranking sixth overall in the nation in rebounds (40.0 pg). A trio of young guards have powered the Huskies this season led by sophomore Terrence Ross (16.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Ross had a team-high 24 points in the quarterfinals. Freshman phenom Tony Wroten (16.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.8 apg) poured in 22 points and has had a very strong debut campaign, ranking second in scoring and assists and third in rebounding this season. C.J. Wilcox (14.3 ppg) is the team's third scoring option. This will be the 16th all-time meeting between these squads with Washington holding a 9-6 series advantage. These squads have not met on the hardwood since 1990. The winner of this game will take on either Massachusetts or Stanford for the NIT title. Washington is 0-3 in neutral games, but they nearly did beat Marquette in this same building earlier in the year. Minnesota is 11-6 ATS away from home, while the Huskies have gone just 6-8 ATS away from home this year.
Free Pick: This Washington team is playing with much heart and determination right now after being snubbed by the NCAA Committee. Washington did play 3 home games to get here, but they did take on tough Northwestern and Oregon squads in their last 2 games so they were tested some. The Huskies have been great offensively as they have averaged 82.7 ppg in the NIT so far and they have been led by Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, who have made this team an exciting watch.Ross has dominated in the NIT, averaging 26.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while Wroten showed as much as his colleague when he dropped 22 points and grabbed seven boards vs the Ducks. Minnesota has enjoyed a nice run in the NIT but the road ends here. Washington's roster is too talented and filled with players that can score seemingly at will. The Golden Gophers will be hard-pressed to keep up. Look for the Huskies to continue to play with a bit of an edge and a chip, considering their NCAA Tournament snub. Huskies march on here.
Free Picks: Minnesota vs Washington Bettinghttp://PregameVideos.com - Washington playing with chip on their shoulder and Minnesota has been a point spread machine covering seven straight plus other factors college basketball bettors need to know about Minnesota vs Washington (Tuesday, March 27, 2012) from Pregame.com - Including predictions from Scott Spreitzer and analysis from host Marco...