Penn State-Utah in NIT Championship Game & Best Bet Is ...

penn state hoops

Willie Bee

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 3:52 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2018 3:52 PM UTC

There’s a bit of a Rose Bowl feel to Thursday's NIT title game from Madison Square Garden, and we have a free NCAA basketball pick for the Pac-12/Big Ten matchup between Utah and Penn State.

No. 4 Penn State (24-14 SU, 20-13-1 ATS) vs. No. 2 Utah (23-11 SU, 18-11-3 ATS)Free NCAAB Pick: Under 135Best Line Offered: Bookmaker

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Guess we should’ve seen this coming, or at least suspected that the NIT Championship Game would boil down to a No. 2 seed taking on a No. 4 after three of the four quarterfinal contests matched up with the same seedings.

The 81st NIT champion -– including titles vacated in 2003 (Louisville), 1998 (Minnesota) and 1997 (Michigan) -– will be crowned Thursday night at Madison Square Garden where the Utah Utes collide with the Penn State Nittany Lions. ESPN2 will begin its broadcast at 7 PM (ET), and the NCAA basketball odds have Penn State favored by 3 and 135 for the total. It is only the second meeting ever between the schools, PSU winning the other 80-69, though that clash took place so long ago to leave betting trends irrelevant.

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Mood! #goutes pic.twitter.com/POuqP0ovYa

— Utah Athletics (@utahathletics) March 28, 2018
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Both Sides Shooting Well At Free Throw Line

Sportsbooks were indeed intuitive with their pick'em status for Tuesday’s semifinal pairing of Utah and Western Kentucky. The back-&-forth affair found the clubs knotted at 51 at the end of the third quarter (no halves in the NIT but four quarters) before the Utes pulled away from the Hilltoppers in the final 10 minutes for a 69-64 triumph. Utah guard Justin Bibbins played all 40 minutes to lead four Utes in double figures with 19 points. The senior was a perfect 12-for-12 from the charity stripe, continuing fine free-throw shooting for Larry Krystkowiak’s club in the tournament (56-74, 75.6%).

It wasn’t nearly as close in the nightcap between Penn State and Mississippi State, the Nittany Lions scoring the first 19 points of the second quarter to cruise to a 75-60 victory. Tony Carr led all scorers with 21, the sophomore also dishing out 5 assists and pulling down 6 boards. Shep Garner added 18 for the Lions, connecting on 6 of 9 attempts beyond the arc. Patrick Chambers’ crew is also making teams pay at the free-throw line, Penn State netting 73.2% of its tries (63-86).

NIT History, Final Thoughts & A Free Pick

This is Penn State’s third trip to the NIT Finals, winning it all nine years ago with a 69-63 decision vs. Baylor. The Nittany Lions also reached the 1998 Championship Game before losing to Minnesota, the Golden Gophers eventually vacating the title due to an NCAA infraction. Utah is also appearing in its third NIT finals, beating Kentucky in 1947 and losing to Purdue in 1974.

Both teams have been trending ‘under’ during the tournament, and I see no reason not to make that my free NCAA basketball pick.

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