Brad Brownell knows his Clemson Tigers caught a big break with an extra game at home in the 2014 National Invitation Tournament. Now they'll try to capitalize on home-court advantage one more time when they host the Belmont Bruins on Tuesday.
The quarterfinal battle between No. 3/5 seeds will be broadcast from Littlejohn Coliseum by ESPN starting at 7 PM (ET) ESPN. The Tigers started as 7 point favorites, and that number is up to 7.5 at most outlets listed on SBR's live NCAA basketball odds. Likewise, the total increased to 135 after starting on 133.
Clemson's benefit of playing a third NIT home game is courtesy of Illinois renovating State Farm Center in Champaign. The No. 3 Tigers would have had to travel to face the No. 2 Fighting Illini this past Sunday, but instead enjoyed home, sweet home in that matchup and just managed to eke out a win to stay alive.
Both Clemson and Belmont benefitted from St. John's being eliminated in the first round of the NIT. The Red Storm drew the 1-seed in this portion of the bracket, but were stunned at home by Robert Morris last week. Favored by 13.5, St. John's fell to the Colonials, 89-79, thanks in large part to a career-best 38 points by Karvel Anderson.
Get the rundown and free picks for all of tonight's NIT Action
Bruins Looking To
Make Up For Upset Loss In OVC Tourney
Belmont (26-9 straight up, 16-16 against the spread) had dreams of a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament this year after winning the East Division of the Ohio Valley Conference with a league-best 14-2 regular season record. Those hopes were dashed, however, when Eastern Kentucky upset the Bruins in the OVC title tilt, 79-73.
Rick Byrd's bunch was dejected, but appear now to be intent on making waves in the NIT. They first had to travel to Green Bay where the Bruins were 5.5 point underdogs to the Phoenix, the Horizon League regular season champs. Belmont used a strong close to the first half of that game to take a 12-point lead into the locker room, and were in control from that point on.
The Bruins then returned home to meet the Colonials who only brought seven players to Nashville after the suspension of four cagers in January. Robert Morris put on another gritty performance despite the thin roster, but didn't have enough to repeat the upset at St. John's. Favored by 10, Belmont had a point to spare for a cover in the 82-71 decision.
Tigers Eye NIT Final
Four After NCAA Bubble Burst
Clemson (22-12 SU, 15-12-2 ATS) might have been just two points away from a trip to the NCAA's. If not for one defensive effort by Duke's Tyler Thornton in the ACC quarterfinals, the Tigers might have made it to the Big Dance.
They came up a point short to the Blue Devils in that contest, sending Brownell's squad to the NIT instead. The journey started at Littlejohn Coliseum against the 6th-seeded Georgia State Panthers who were getting 6 points from the NCAA basketball oddsmakers. Georgia State backers would need twice that many just to push the 78-66 final as Clemson's KJ McDaniels poured in 30 points for a second time this season.
Next came the visit from Illinois, and it took a late layup by Rod Hall to slip past the Illini, 50-49. Clemson, 4 point chalk in the contest, was up by as many as nine in the second half before Illinois rallied to take the lead with just over two minutes left. Hall's layup with just nine ticks left was the only Tigers field goal in the final 4½ minutes, but it was enough to give Clemson an 11th-straight NIT win at home.
Taking Clemson at home seems right, but I'm more interested in the total which I believe to be too high. Put me down for an 'under' play for my free free NCAA basketball pick.
My pick: Belmont-Clemson Under 135Season: 59-43-4 (+11.7)