NIT Bracket Breakdown Reveals Notre Dame Has Easiest Path

Willie Bee

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 2:01 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2018 2:01 PM UTC

NCAA basketball futures odds are out for the NIT, and the top two chalk lines were given to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Saint Mary’s Gaels.

Will the anger of being snubber by the NCAA selection committee help push the USC Trojans to the NIT title? Can Bonzie Colson make up for his lost time due to injury by leading Notre Dame to the crown in his final hurrah with the Fighting Irish? What about Baylor and Oklahoma State, the two entrants from a Big 12 conference many thought was the best league this season?

All of those questions might be answered by breaking down the NIT bracket to determine which routes are the toughest to reach the tourney’s Final Four and Championship Game in New York two weeks from now. And if we go by the combination of RPI and NCAA basketball futures, it would put the upper-right quadrant of the bracket where Southern Cal sits No. 1 tops on the chart. The Trojans are No. 34 in RPI, the highest ranking ever in that system for a team that didn’t get an at-large invite to the Big Dance, and check in at +700 – 3rd-best odds – to cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden. Oklahoma State is seeded second in that portion of the bracket, and is tied for fifth with a +1000 return to win it.

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Never take for granted another chance to play with your brothers.
Our NIT run begins...
Tuesday | 9 pm ET
vs Hampton | ESPN#Together pic.twitter.com/vgFKP77bor

— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) March 12, 2018
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Louisville’s Commitment After Tough Season Is Questionable

Meaning no disrespect to the other 15 teams that occupy the left side of the bracket with Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish appear to have the smoothest route to the Big Apple. The futures certainly believe this with Mike Brey’s club leading that list at +450. It’s a veteran team with Colson joined by fellow seniors Matt Ferrell and Martinas Geben, and a group that would love to bookend their Maui Invitational victory with an NIT title.

Notre Dame’s toughest competition in the upper-left portion is expected to come from No. 2 seed Marquette, while down in the lower-left the top two seeds are Baylor and Louisville. The Bears are third on the NCAA basketball odds at +800 to win the NIT, while the Cardinals check in at +1000. Baylor would be trying to following in the footsteps of Big 12 rival TCU after the Horned Frogs won the event last season, but three losses in the final four regular-season games plus an early exit from the conference tourney leave me less than impressed. Louisville is another tough team to get behind after players there initially voted to not accept the NIT invite. Instead, I like No. 3 Middle Tennessee State (+1800) and No. 5 Nebraska (+2500) advance to the Elite Eight here.

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She's a beaut #NIT pic.twitter.com/Hjxl0uz5oW

— Courtney Cox (@coxcourtney) March 12, 2018
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Can Boise State Upset Saint Mary’s To Reach NYC?

The lower-right of the bracket ruins a close second as the toughest portion to the upper-right where USC and Oklahoma State reside. Saint Mary’s is seeded first here, and is second on the futures at 500. Randy Bennett’s bunch is accustomed to playing second fiddle to Gonzaga out in the West Coast Conference, and shouldn’t be bothered that much by missing the NCAAs. The Gaels’ path includes a potential 2nd-round meeting with No. 4 Boise State, a matchup I’m looking forward to, plus a clash with No. 2 Utah (+1800).

How all of the teams handle the changes being implemented in the NIT remains to be seen. The veteran presence Notre Dame has going into the event should handle that best, part of why I’m riding chalk with my free NCAA basketball pick for the Irish to win it all.

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