Breaking Down the Consolation Tournament: the NIT

nit tournament

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 4:39 PM GMT

The NIT begins Tuesday night on campuses around the country. Let's examine which teams are poised to claim the title as well as a few dark-horses that may emerge in our college basketball picks.

The Big Four

Though the NIT is largely overshadowed by the Big Dance and is viewed as a consolation prize for the good but not great teams, there is value to be had in our college basketball picks. That's right, the attention is squarely on the NCAA Tournament -- but that's why we often venture towards areas that are less traveled and far less scrutinized. With that, let's take a look at the four top seeds of the 32-team 2017 National Invitation Tournament.

No. 1 seeds California, Illinois State, Iowa and Syracuse will host No. 8 seeds CSU Bakersfield, UC Irvine, South Dakota and UNCG, respectively. The ACC's Orange would certainly rather be dancing with the big boys, but the college basketball odds makers are not taking them lightly in their first-round showdown with the University of North Carolina Greensboro, installing them as 12½-point home favorites Tuesday.

Another Tuesday night matchup sees Pac-12 school California dribbling into the NIT with a 21-12 record but a less-than-palatable 14-18 ATS mark if you have been blindly backing the Golden Bears in your college basketball picks. The Bears take on CSU-Bakersfield and their 21-9 regular season mark. California was initially installed as 11-point chalk but the money is coming in on the dog and that line has now dipped to 9½ as of Tuesday morning.

The Missouri Valley's Illinois State boasts the best record of all the No. 1 seeds with a 27-6 mark but a pedestrian 17-15-1 ATS number. The Redbirds will host the No. 8 seed in their region, UC Irvine, and have dropped down half a click from 11-point to 10½-point favorites as of this writing. That contest will take place on Wednesday night.

The other No. 1 seed in action on Wednesday evening is Iowa of the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes' 18-14 record didn't quite cut it for the Big Dance, but they are one of the top four seeds in this year's NIT despite their marginal regular season record. Iowa's ATS mark was nothing to write home about as it went 13-14 against the number this season. The Hawkeyes will be opposed by a South Dakota crew that received an automatic bid as their conference champion. The Coyotes own a 22-11 record in the lightly regarded Summit League. Iowa is holding steady as 11½-point home chalk.

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