In the finals of the National Invitational Tournament Alabama take on Wichita State.
Game time is set for March 31st at 7:00 pm est at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In their last game, Alabama defeated a gamed Colorado Buffaloes team, 62-61. Down by 1 with 11 seconds to go Trevor Releford slipped along the baseline and scored the game winning basket to put the Tide into the finals of the NIT. Leading Alabama was JaMychal Green with 22 points and 5 rebounds on 11 of 16 shooting from the field. Trevor Releford added 13 points and 6 assists and most importantly the game winner.
In Wichita State's previous game, they destroyed the Washington State Cougars, 75-44. Wichita State got out to a halftime lead of 36-19 and never looked back. The Cougars offense was simply inept. For the game, Washington State shot a pathetic 29.4% from the field and came up empty from 3 point range at 0-10. The Shockers also outrebounded the Cougars convincingly, 46-21. Leading the Shockers was center Garrett Stutz with 24 points and 11 rebounds on a sizzling 10 of 13 shooting from the field.
The number 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will have to be at their best. Wichita State has gained a tremendous amount of momentum from such a convincing semifinals destruction of the opposing team. Wichita State is a 1.5 point favorite. This game is a virtual toss-up. The winner will be declared the NIT champion and will have a banner that will reside in the rafters of their home arena.
"We will we will shock you"
The Shockers of Wichita State have been very strong offensively in this tournament, averaging 79 points per game and their lowest scoring output was 76 points. They were the number 4 team in their region and managed to outlast the number 1 team Virginia Tech Hokies 79-76 in overtime in second round action. Not only that, they're gliding into the finals after a 31 point victory over a tough Washington State team that went 22-13 for the season. Expect the Shockers to be full of confidence.
"Add your contributions here"
Wichita State doesn't have one definitive star on their basketball team. Their roster consists of several players that contribute equally. The leading scorer on the team only averages 11.2 points per game (J.T.Durley). If you're a player on this team, you know that you're going to get playing time. Toure' Murry leads the team with 25.2 minutes logged per game.Ten players on the roster play 13.7 minutes or more. This will keep a good offensive team fresh. A total of 8 players average 6 or more points per game. Not having a "go to guy" has it's positives and it's negatives. In their last game against Washington State, it payed off for the Shockers. Center Garrett Stutz who averages just 14.5 minutes per game and 7.1 points per game came up huge. Stutz had 24 points and 11 rebounds on 10 of 13 shooting from the field. In their last 4 games, the Shockers have had a different leading scorer in every game. That style of play has gotten them to the championship game.
Who to watch
As I stated earlier, any player on this team is capable of leading the squad but there are a couple of players to keep an eye on. Leading scorer J.T. Durley didn't need to play well in his last outing but has scored in double figures in 4 out of his last 5 games. In his last 5 games, Durley has averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds. Durley is also a senior and this will be his last game in a Shockers uniform. Expect him to be extra motivated.
Guard Toure' Murry has played well as of late. He's had 3 consecutive games in double figures, averaging 13 points per game. Senior forward Gabe Blair knows that this will be his last game also. On the season, Blair averages 6.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. As of late, Blair has averaged 10.6 points and 9 rebounds in his last 3 games. Blair has also shot 13 of 18 from the field. Look for a possible contribution from Blair and Garrett Stutz who recently had a monstrous game.
On the season the Shockers average 72.3 points, 37.5 rebounds,15.1 assists, and 46.4% field goal shooting. This is a good offensive team that plays in their own unique style and it works for them. Alabama and their tough defense will need to come up big.
Alabama will convey this message to the Shockers in a strong way. Whether NCAA or NIT's, 'Bama has one of the toughest defenses in college basketball. Alabama has only allowed one team to score more than 64 points in their last 13 games (count them 13!) This proposes a problem for Wichita State who has scored 76 points or more in every NIT tournament game. In their last 10 games, Alabama has held 2 teams to under 50 points.On the season, Alabama is ranked 7th in points allowed (59.2), 4th in field goal % allowed (38.3), and 30th in 3 point% allowed (31.4).
Alabama averages 67.1 points per game and has just an average offense. This is a team that wants to keep the score low. If the score stays low then this is Alabama's championship.
-JaMychal Green leads the Crimson Tide in scoring (15.6 ) and rebounding (7.6) Green is a reliable shooter at 50.4% from the field. Green had been consistent, scoring in double figures in every game that he played except for 1 up until the last 4 games. Green slipped against Coastal Carolina and New Mexico, averaging just 7.5 points per game. Although these were two convincing victories, a coach wants to keep his best player hot because we're getting to the point where there's no tomorrow. Since then, Green has averaged 18 points and 5 rebound in the last 2 important games. In these two games, Green has shot 16 for 24. He's primed to have a big championship game performance with one of the best defenses in the country to support him.
-Forward Tony Mitchell has had a solid season at 15.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and 1.6 steals per game and he is only a sophomore. Mitchell is coming off of a poor performance against the win over Colorado with just 8 points and 5 rebounds. Alabama needs a better showing in the big game. I see JaMychal Green taking over but Mitchell needs to be a factor.
- Trevor Releford is just a freshman but he's been a solid contributor in this tournament. Releford has scored in double figures in his last 5 games. In these games, Releford is averaging 15.4 points and 4 assists. Releford has had 7 steals in his last 2 games which attributes to how great a defense that Alabama is. In his last 4 games, Releford has shot 50 % from the field or better. I expect this super freshman to keep up the spectacular play.
Wichita State is getting a lot of respect from the NCAA basketball odds makers being a 1.5 point favorite. Their semifinals performance left a lasting impression but let's not forget that Alabama was a number 1 seed coming into this tournament and has a top notch defense. This game is expected to be close and in a close game, you need a primary go to guy. The Shockers don't have that convenience. Alabama's top 3 scorers, including the freshman Releford, would be my choice over any player on the Shockers roster. The lines look more focused on each teams last game and not "who is the better team?".
By no means is Wichita State a pushover. They have a +11.1 point difference per game and only allow 61.8 points themselves. They're also ranked 5th in the nation is rebounds allowed and have a +11.8 rebounds per game difference.
Outcome of the Championship of the NIT
Don't expect Garrett Stutz to have another 24 point, 11 rebound game. Although this game will be close, the Shockers will be searching for the hot hand and may not find it. Alabama will keep this game low scoring with a slow tempo. I'm not going to have my opinion swayed by Wichita State's last game against Washington State. Alabama will use JaMychal Green often. Expect a very productive game from Tony Mitchell. Bama takes the NIT title back to Tuscaloosa.
Pick: Alabama +1.5