We could have one Pitino in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in Arlington a couple of weekends from now, and another battling it out as part of the Final Four of the NIT next week in New York City.
While Rick Pitino has his Louisville Cardinals zeroed in on defending their 2013 NCAA Championship, son Richard is trying to cap his first season as Minnesota head coach with a net-cutting scene at Madison Square garden. The top-seeded Golden Gophers are just one win away from reaching the Big Apple with the No. 3 Southern Miss Golden Eagles standing in their ay.
Williams Arena in Minneapolis is the site for this NIT Quarterfinal matchup, ESPN's telecast beginning at 9 PM (ET). Minnesota opened -4 and the spread is now up to 4.5 or even 5 points at some locales monitored by SBR's live NCAA basketball odds. Tuesday night's total has crept up to 136.5 after beginning two points lower.
Get the rundown and free picks for all of tonight's NIT Action
Eagles Back In NIT Quarters For 2nd-Straight Season
Donnie Tyndall was brought to Southern Miss (29-6 straight up, 21-10-1 against the spread) to try and get the Golden Eagles over the hump and into the Big Dance on a regular basis. That hasn't happened yet, but Tyndall does have his club back in the NIT quarters for a second straight year, and he'd like to see his squad start to take that next step by getting to New York City next week.
The Eagles missed out on the AQ bid to the NCAA Tournament a year ago with a tough double-overtime loss to Memphis in the Conference USA Tournament Finals, but earned a No. 1 seed to the 2013 NIT. There, they fell victim in the quarterfinals to a hot-shooting BYU club.
This year, Southern Miss was part of a 4-team deadlock at the top of the C-USA regular season standings, only to fall short to Louisiana Tech in the semifinals of the tournament. Still, the Eagles are possibly on the verge of a 30-win season for the first time in school history, and they head to Minnesota as one of only eight college hoops outfits to return at least 10 units on spread wagers.
Southern Miss opened the NIT with 66-59 win at home vs. Toledo, holding on to barely push a 7 point spread. That was followed by a strong showing at Missouri on Sunday when the Eagles were 4.5 point underdogs. They took the lead at Mizzou Arena midway through the first half on their way to the 71-63 victory.
Gophers Going For
Third NIT Title
Minnesota (22-13 SU, 14-17-1 ATS) was favored by 17 in its NIT opener vs. High Point, and the Golden Gophers played like a team not very excited about being in the NIT much of the game. The Panthers were even with Minnesota through the first 17 minutes, but a 21-6 run that stretched into the first few minutes of the second half helped the Gophers stave off the upset with an 88-81 victory.
They once again came out sluggish Sunday against Saint Mary's who scored the game's first 14 points before the Gophers finally came out of their hole. Minnesota cut that deficit to four going into halftime, and scored its final nine points at the free-throw line to pull off the 63-55 win to just cover the 7 point spread.
Minnesota is getting offense in the NIT from a couple of sources who weren't big contributors during the regular season. Joey King scored 18 in the victory vs. the Gaels following a 14-point effort from the sophomore forward against High Point. Senior guard Maverick Ahanmisi netted a career-best 21 in the win over High Point after averaging less than 3 PPG up to that game.
Count me among those impressed with the job Tyndall has done in Hattiesburg, but I'm more impressed with what the younger Pitino has done in his first season with the Gophers. My free NCAA basketball pick is on the home team tonight.
My pick: Minnesota -4.5Season: 59-43-4 (+11.7)