2011 NIT Bracket Schedule, Previews, Recaps: Wichita State Wins The Title

Cal and St. Mary's will be representing the Bay Area in the 2011 National Invitational Tournament. We've got a bracket and running updates over the course of the tournament.

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2011 NIT Tournament Results: Wichita State Beats Alabama, Captures The Championship

Wichita St. Shockers 66, Alabama Crimson Tide 57

I don't think many people penciled in Wichita State as your NIT tournament champions when the field of 32 was announced, but it should've been a better bet. The Shockers were probably a Big Dance team before they fell in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament to Indiana State, who went on and took Wichita State's automatic bid. They were solid both offensively and defensively, and found multiple ways to win through their run to the Garden and the eventual crown.

Wichita State's methodical offense completely flustered Alabama's defense with their rotation, slow pace and efficiency, distributing 15 assists compared to seven for the Tide. They only took 46 field goal attempts, but made half of them, including nailing 7 of 15 from downtown. Graham Hatch nailed all four of his shot attempts from three point land, J.T. Durley chipped in 12 points of his own, and Aaron Ellis and Garrett Stutz added eight apiece. The Shockers didn't have a single player score more than 12 points, but all of the members of their ten man rotation scored. Teamwork.

Alabama's poor offense finally did them in. Chris Hines missed all of his eight shots, Charvez Davis went four of eleven, and the Tide shot only 37% from the floor, with a horrid offensive efficiency of 93.4 points per 100 possessions. Tony Mitchell had 13 points and 12 rebounds (5 offensive), but also turned the ball over five times. JaMychal Green (12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Taylor Releford chipped in 10 points as well.

For reaction from Alabama fans, head over to Roll Bama Roll.

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2011 NIT Tournament Championship Pick: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Wichita State Shockers

So here it is, the battle for the NIT Championship at Madison Square Garden. The game will be on ESPN at 4 PM PT/7 PM ET. Let's take a look at both teams.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Ken Pomeroy says ... 108th best offense, 7th best defense. Plays at one of the slowest tempos in college basketball. Great two point defense, solid three point defense. Force a lot of turnovers, steals and blocks.

The weaknesses with Bama are terrible outside shooting from behind the three point line. Also struggle at getting to the free throw line. Turnover prone squad as well.

SB Nation community: Roll Bama Roll

 

Wichita St. Shockers

Ken Pomeroy says ... 30th best offense, 46th best defense, one of the slowest tempos in college basketball. Great rebounding team, particularly on the defensive end. This team is great at shooting and defensing shots, with a strong field goal offense and defense, particularly on two pointers, as well as solid free throw shooting. Solid eight man rotation, with no player averaging more than 26 minutes. Good passing team, putting up assists on an average of 60% of their made field goals. One of the most experienced teams in college basketball.

The weaknesses for Wichita St. are they don't get to the line and they don't force turnovers. Also, an average three point defense.

 

Prediction: Wichita State has too many strengths, they're defensively sound (which does not bode well for Bama's turgid offense), and they play at Alabama's pace. They should be able to capture their first NIT title Thursday night.

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2011 NIT Basketball Results: Alabama Holds Off Colorado

Alabama Crimson Tide 62, Colorado Buffaloes 61

Unsurprisingly, this game went right down to the wire. The Tide defense held the offensively efficient Buffaloes to only 40% shooting while shooting 50% themselves. They forced 16 turnovers, five on Marcus Relphorde, with Trevor Releford gathering four steals. Jamychal Green led Alabama with 22 points on 11 of 16 shooting to go with five rebounds, Releford chipped in 13 points and six assists.

However, Alabama was inept at the three point line (2 for 8) and at the charity stripe (4 for 11), and Colorado kept themselves alive with threes (8 for 25) and free throws (13 for 15). Alabama's ability to make Colorado play at their pace (only an average of 58 possessions on the game!) and overall defense on offensively efficient players like Cory Higgins (13 points on 14 shots) and Levi Knutson (14 points on 13 shots) made a big difference in this one. Alec Burks led the Buffs with 20 points, but missed a last second jumper to allow the Tide to advance to the final on Thursday night.

Alabama now heads to the final to take on Wichita State (who beat Washington State) on Thursday night.

For more perspective from Alabama fans, head to Roll Bama Roll; for Colorado perspective, head to Ralphie Report.

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2011 NIT Basketball Tournament Results: Wichita State Shuts Down Washington State

Wichita St. Shockers 75, Washington St. Cougars 44

The consistently inconsistent squad from Pullman finally met its end in the NIT semifinal in Madison Square Garden against a team that's been consistently consistent all season.

Wichita State owned almost all the major categories of the game. As expected, they won the rebounding battle thoroughly--the Shockers grabbed 52 rebounds compared to 25 for the Cougars, and 18 offensive rebounds compared to 6 for WSU. Garrett Stutz led the way inside with 11 boards (3 offensive), and Gabe Blair added 9 rebounds.With so many addtional opportunities. Blair and Stutz also had their way in the paint, shooting 15 of 18 from the field for 34 points, Toure Murry added 13, and that was practically almost all the Shockers needed.

The defense of the Shockers was apparently very formidable. Washington State could not shoot, making only 29% of their shots from the field (Wichita was just around their season average at 47.7%). Klay Thompson was 1 for 10, Reggie Moore went 2 for 8, DeAngelo Casto was 3 for 8, Brock Motum and Marcus Capers combined to go 2 for 7. Wichita State's average three point defense was more than enough to keep the Cougars down. WSU took ten threes, and clanged all of them.

Wichita State moves onto face Alabama (who beat Colorado) in the NIT tournament championship Thursday night in New York City. For more reaction from the losing fanbase, head over to CougCenter.

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2011 NIT Basketball Tournament Bracket & Picks: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Colorado Buffaloes

The second matchup of the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden pits two teams that believe they were snubbed for the right to go to the NCAA Tournament. Their matchup will follow the Washington State-Wichita State game at around 6:30 PM PT/9:30 PM ET on ESPN2.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Ken Pomeroy says ... 107th best offense, 8th best defense. Plays at one of the slowest tempos in college basketball. Great two point defense, solid three point defense. Force a lot of turnovers, steals and blocks.

The weaknesses with Bama are terrible outside shooting from behind the three point line. Also struggle at getting to the free throw line. Turnover prone squad as well.

SB Nation community: Roll Bama Roll

Colorado Buffaloes

Ken Pomeroy says ... 9th best offense, 173rd best defense. Plays at one of the fastest paces in college basketball. Excellent shooting team on all areas of the court.  Strong ball-handling squad that holds on to the rock. Solid offensive rebounding squad. Good at getting looks inside and not having to settle for threes.

The weaknesses with CU are defense. One of the worst three point defenses in the country, pretty weak two point defense as well. They also don't force many turnovers.

SB Nation community: The Ralphie Report

Prediction: I usually take good defense over good offense, since even bad offense should be able to score on bad defense. Could be a close one, but I've got Alabama. Only by a small margin though.

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2011 NIT Basketball Tournament Bracket & Picks: Washington State Cougars vs. Wichita State Shockers

Let's take a look at this NIT semifinal matchup at Madison Square Garden, which will tip-off at 4 PM PT/7 PM ET on ESPN2 Monday night.

Washington St. Cougars

Ken Pomeroy says ... 71st best offense, 39th best defense, one of the faster paces in college basketball. Strong field goal offense and field goal defense. Good at ball handling, decent at forcing turnovers. Great at forcing team into shooting three pointers and keeping them out of the paint.

The weaknesses for WSU are average rebounding. One of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country, and not much better on the defensive boards. Look at Washington State's losses this season, and you can pretty much look at the rebounding battle as the prescription for their downfall.

Wichita St. Shockers

Ken Pomeroy says ... 37th best offense, 62nd best defense, one of the slowest tempos in college basketball. Great rebounding team, particularly on the defensive end. Great field goal offense and defense, particularly on two pointers. Strong free throw shooting team. Solid eight man rotation, with no player averaging more than 26 minutes. Good passing team, putting up assists on an average of 60% of their made field goals. One of the most experienced teams in college basketball.

The weaknesses for Wichita St. are they don't get to the line and they don't force turnovers. Also, an average three point defense.

Prediction: Wichita State should win this one by a smidge. They might have trouble with the Cougar defense and might be forced to settle for more three pointers than they'd like, but they should be able to win the rebounding battle and garner those extra possessions. Also, if they're up late, you have to like how good they are at the free throw line. Their solid and experienced rotation should be enough to wear down Wazzu as the game goes on.

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2011 NIT Basketball Tournament Bracket Update: Colorado-Alabama, Washington State-Wichita State Semifinals Matchups

The setup for the "Final Four" of the NIT Tournament is set. Madison Square Garden will play host to four teams next week, the winner of whom will be crowned NIT champion. Let's take a look at each of the matchups.

Monday, March 29

Semifinal #1

Wichita St. Shockers vs. Washington St. Cougars, 4 PM PT/7 PM ET, ESPN2 (TV) or ESPN3.com (online)

Prediction: The miracle run of Wichita State to the finals should continue, as they are a superior all-around team. Washington State could make it close if they can bury their threes, but the Shockers should control the boards and manage things reasonably well in the paint.

Semifinal #2

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Colorado Buffaloes, 6 PM PT/9 PM ET, ESPN2 (TV) or ESPN3.com (online)

Prediction: It's the ultimate of great offense vs. great defense. Can Colorado's super efficient shooting handle Alabama's strong interior frontline? The Tide will be in trouble if they fall behind early, but otherwise I like Alabama in a close, low-scoring, slow-paced game.

Wednesday, March 31

Predicted Final: Alabama vs. Wichita State, 4 PM PT/7 PM ET, ESPN2 (TV) or ESPN3.com (online)

Prediction: Wichita State is the most well-rounded team left in the tournament. They should be able to finish the improbable run from Missouri Valley Conference Champions (but knocked out of their NCAA tournament run by Indiana State in the MVC tournament) and be crowned kings of the NIT.

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2011 NIT Basketball Tournament Results: Klay Thompson, Washington State Beat Northwestern In Quarterfinals

The Washington St. Cougars again found themselves in a perilous situation at home in Pullman in the NIT tournament. DeAngelo Casto had been suspended and reinstated in a span of 36 hours. And Abe Lodwick did this with a chance to win at the end of regulation over the Northwestern Wildcats.

(via hellodavejensen)

Still, Wazzu found another way to prevail in this tournament. The Cougars still lived on the free throw line (a bit of a surprise, as WSU has one of the worst FT rates in the country). They needed every one of those 15 points as their shooting touch deserted them from outside all night long (21-43 on twos, but an abominable 4 of 17 on threes). The Cougar defense also came up big, as they held a normally strong shooting Northwestern squad to 26% shooting on THIRTY-EIGHT three point attempts.

Klay Thompson didn't have the greatest showing (6 of 18 shooting) in what could be his final appearance at Wallis Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum, but he managed 17 points and 9 rebounds, and had this ferocious dunk.

(via mawasa) (HT Brian Floyd of SB Nation Seattle)

Brock Motum provided 13 points and Casto, Reggie Moore and Faisel Aden all chipped in with 11 points. The Cougars move onto the NIT semifinals in Madison Square Garden next week, where they'll take on the Wichita St. Shockers.

For more reaction, head over to Coug Center (Wash. State) & Sippin' on Purple (Northwestern) for team-specific analysis.

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2011 NIT Tournament Bracket, Schedule, Odds: Washington State, Alabama, Wichita State All Favored

The 2011 National Invitational Tournament continues its quarterfinal matchups tonight following Colorado’s victory over Kent State last night. The 2011 NIT has featured a variety of upsets, as the “Elite Eight” of the tournament included a four, six, and seven seed. There are two number ones and two number twos remaining as we enter tonight’s games. Betting odds come courtesy of Odds Shark and team ratings are courtesy of Ken Pomeroy. As always, the suggested picks are for entertainment value only.

No. 4 Wichita State vs. No. 6 College of Charleston – The Wichita State Shockers are the biggest favorite tonight as they are favored by 8 1/2 points against the Charleston Cougars. The Shockers bring a better offense and significantly better defense, with their biggest strength coming rebounding. Wichita State is ranked fourth in defensive rebounding and 57th in offensive rebounding, while Charleston is 290th and 132nd in those categories. If WSU can handle Charleston on the boards, this game is their’s for the cover. I say Wichita State rolls in double digits.

No. 1 Alabama vs. No 2. Miami, FL – The Crimson Tide are a five point favorite against the Hurricanes. The Tide bring a very strong defense to the table. They have a weaker offense than Miami, but defense wins championships. I think Alabama gets the win, but I would bet on Miami to cover.

No. 2 Washington State vs. No. 4 Northwestern – The Cougars are a four point favorite against the Wildcats, but the ratings might indicate Northwestern is worth a money-line wager. The teams are very closely rated, with Northwestern getting a slight nudge over Wazzou. The Cougars are more balanced on offense and defense, but Northwestern brings a strong offense to the table. If they can hit their shots and avoid turnovers, Northwestern could pull the upset. Just for the heck of it I’d say put your money on Northwestern to win.

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2011 NIT Basketball Tournament Quarterfinals Schedule & Picks

Let's take a quick look at NIT quarterfinal action. The winners of these games go onto the semifinals at Madison Square Garden next Monday. All the games are probably  televised on ESPN2 and can be seen online at ESPN3.com.

Tuesday, March 22

Kent St. Golden Flashes at Colorado Buffaloes, 6 PM PT/9 PM ET

Pick: Colorado. Kent State's strong three point shooting defense should keep them in the game with Colorado's efficient offense, but Colorado should be able to gain extra possessions by using their size to take advantage of Kent State's poor rebounding. Plus they're at home, and it's not easy playing in Boulder.

Wednesday, March 23

Charleston Cougars at Wichita St. Shockers 4 PM PT/7 PM ET

Pick: Wichita State. Charleston is an awful rebounding team, and their defense is merely average. That won't be enough against a fairly solid Shocker squad that is good all-around.


Miami Hurricanes at Alabama Crimson Tide, 6 PM PT/9 PM ET

Pick: Alabama. The Tide aren't a great offensive team, but their defense should be enough to shut down Miami at home to move them to the Final Four...of the NIT.


Northwestern Wildcats at Washington St. Cougars, 8 PM PT/11 PM ET

Pick: Wazzu. Homecourt should make all the difference for the more balanced Cougars, who should be able to pick apart a horrible Northwestern defense while holding their own elsewhere.

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2011 NIT Basketball Tournament Results: Washington State Beats Oklahoma State, Advances To Quarterfinals

With Cal's elimination to Colorado, only one team in the Pac-10 remains alive--the Washington St. Cougars. Long thought to be considered a solid bet for the NCAA Tournament, Washington State underperformed all season and ended up out of the Dance altogether. Now they're trying to earn the consolation prize of an NCAA tournament bid.

The big difference for the Cougars came from downtown as WSU (one of the better three point offenses in the country) nailed 8 triples, OSU (one of the worst, and facing a good WSU three point defense) only 4. Washington St. also was impressive in winning the offensive rebounding battle against a pretty solid Cowboys squad, and most surprisingly went onto win the free throw battle by a big margin (the Cougars were 22 for 26 from the line, the Cowboys 12 for 15). Klay Thompson finished with 21 points and Brock Motum supported him with 17 for the Cougars. Five Cowboys, led by Matthew Pilgrim, finished in double figures in scoring.

Washington State now moves onto a home matchup with the Northwestern Wildcats on ESPN2 at 8 PM PT/11 PM ET in the quarterfinals. The winner moves onto the NIT semifinals, which will take place at Madison Square Garden next week.

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2011 NIT Basketball Tournament Results: Cal Falls To Colorado

The California Golden Bears and the Colorado Buffaloes squared off in Boulder, and Cal looked totally worn out. Without Markhuri Sanders-Frison (dislocated shoulder) and Jorge Gutierrez injuring his calf halfway through the second half, the team Mike Montgomery managed to cobble together for the past four months finally ran out of steam. Cal trailed by double digits for most of the second half and had all sorts of trouble rotating defensively, getting overwhelmed by Colorado's superior experience, strength and execution.

The Buffaloes grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, shot 45% from three point land and Cal turned the ball over 13 times, giving Colorado all the edge they needed. Alec Burks put up 25 points on 6 of 12 shooting and grabbed five offensive boards, Cory Higgins shot 8 of 15 for 22 points, and Levi Knutson added 10 points off the bench. Gutierrez scored 16 points, Harper Kamp added 14 and Brandon Smith chipped in 11.

For more on the game, check out the California Golden Blogs (Cal) and the Ralphie Report (Colorado).

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Cal vs. Colorado, NIT Basketball Tournament 2011 Gambling Odds: Bears Six Point Underdog To Buffaloes

The California Golden Bears tip off at 6:30pm pacific on ESPNU in their second round NIT matchup against the Colorado Buffaloes. Cal will be traveling to Boulder to face the number one seeded Buffaloes who felt snubbed by the NCAA selection community earlier this week. The gambling odds for tonight’s game are out and Colorado is sitting as a six point favorite against Cal.

Colorado appears to be the better team and would seem to have the offensive edge in this game. Colorado is in the top third in defensive efficiency while Cal is more in the middle of the pack.. Considering both teams can enjoy upping the tempo at times, we could be in for an entertaining game. The over/under on this game is 156. If we go by the six point spread, that would come out to 81-75 if they pushed on both numbers. That’s a lot of points but it seems like something both teams could achieve. Colorado has scored 77+ points in six of its last seven games, while Cal has hit 74+ in six of its last seven games.

At this point I think if Cal covers I think this game goes under, if Cal doesn’t cover it goes over with a ton of points ending up on the board. I’ll take Cal to cover and the under.

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NIT Basketball Tournament 2011: California Golden Bears vs. Colorado Buffaloes Preview

After taking down Ole Miss on Wednesday night, the California Golden Bears are probably going to be involved in a huge shootout in Boulder with the Colorado Buffaloes. Colorado is one of the most offensively efficient teams in the country, and it'd be hard to think Cal would be able to stop them from getting the looks they'd want Friday night.

Stats courtesy of Pomeroy: 10th best offense, 167th best defense, 76th fastest tempo. One of the best shooting teams in the country, both from three point land and three point land. They're a great ball-handling team that rarely turns over the ball. Pretty good on the offensive glass, decent at getting to the free throw line, excellent free throw shooting team.

Colorado's biggest weakness is their terrible shooting defense. They are one of the worst three point shooting defenses in the country, and they're not much better inside. They also don't force many turnovers, and aren't that great on the defensive boards. This is a team that generally has to outscore you to win basketball games. 

How does Cal matchup with them? Shooting-wise, pretty poorly. The most glaring problem is the three point line; Cal is one of the worst defenses while Colorado is one of the best offenses. Conversely, Colorado might not be great at defending the outside, but Cal isn't that great at shooting from distance either. Cal does have an advantage on two point shots. Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez and Brandon Smith will need to nail shots, and Crabbe and Jorge will need to make shots off the dribble and get inside to score.

With the four out, one in lineup that Colorado loves to run, we might see Cal go small and use only one big, putting in Jeff Powers or Emerson Murray on the floor to try and challenge Colorado's shooters outside. A thankless task to be sure.

There are a few things to like, most notably Cal's ability to get to the free throw line and get defensive rebounds, but with Markhuri Sanders-Frison out for the rest of the season, their ability to do both will be diminished.

Player evaluation
Alec Burks (6'6", 185 lb). Alpha dog. Decent shooter, although what really makes him dangerous is his excellent free throw shooting and offensive rebounding ability. This is probably Crabbe's assignment.

Cory Higgins (6'5", 190 lb). Second banana. Also good at getting to the free throw line and nailing shots from there.

Levi Knutson (6'4", 200 lb). Dead on three point shooter, one of the best shooters in the country. He's a sixth man, so Emerson Murray or Jeff Powers are probably responsible for him.

Marcus Relphorde (6'7", 200 lb), Andre Roberson (6'7", 195 lb), Austin Dufault (6'9", 230 lb): With Sanders-Frison, this is probably a decent enough matchup for Cal; without him, the Colorado bigs should have ample opportunites to grab offensive rebounds.

Lean: Colorado. The Buffaloes should use their superior shooting and the home court advantage to put an end to Cal's tumultuous season. If Cal is to win, they'll need to play man-to-man defense and force tough shots outside and risk being worn out by playing a physically stronger and more experienced squad.

For more coverage of the game, go to the California Golden Blogs (Cal) and Ralphie Report (Colorado) for more discussion and analysis.

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2011 NIT Basketball Tournament Second Round TV Schedule: Cal To Play Colorado

The California Golden Bears are moving onto the second round of the NIT after dispatching Ole Miss, but they've been dealt a bad hand against the Colorado Buffaloes. Not only is Colorado perhaps the best team in the National Invitation Tournament, they are a very good three point shooting team and very offensively efficient, both things Cal has struggled with all season long. Cal will only have two days of rest for a flu-ridden Harper Kamp to recover, and Markhuri Sanders-Frison is out with a dislocated shoulder.

Here are the times and dates for the remaining 2011 NIT tournament second round games.

Region 1 survivors: #1 Alabama Crimson Tide,  #2 Miami Hurricanes, #3 Missouri St Bears, #4 New Mexico Lobos
Region 2 survivors: #1 Colorado Buffaloes, #4 California Golden Bears, #6 Fairfield Stags, #7 Kent St. Golden Flashes
Region 3 survivors: #1 Boston College Eagles, #2 Washington St. Cougars, #3 Oklahoma St. Cowboys, #4 Northwestern Wildcats
Region 4 survivors: #1 Virginia Tech Hokies, #2 Cleveland St. Vikings, #4 Wichita St. Shockers, #6 Charleston Cougars

Here is the TV schedule. All games should be simulcast on ESPN3 (although it's unclear with the ESPNU games).

Friday, March 18

Cal at Colorado, 6:30 PM PT/9:30 PM ET, ESPNU

Saturday, March 19

Northwestern at Boston College, 8 AM PT/11 AM ET, ESPN
Charleston at Cleveland St., 11 AM PT/2 PM ET, ESPNU

Sunday, March 20

Wichita St. at Virginia Tech, 8 AM PT/11 AM ET, ESPN
Kent St. at Fairfield, 11 AM PT/2 PM ET, ESPNU

Monday, March 21

Missouri St. at Miami (FL), 4 PM PT/7 PM ET, ESPN
New Mexico at Alabama, 6 PM PT/9 PM ET, ESPN
Oklahoma St. at Washington St., 8:30 PM PT/11:30 PM ET, ESPN2

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NIT Results: Jorge Gutierrez & Cal Hold Off Chris Warren & Ole Miss

When Cal basketball needs someone to pick them up, the last three years it's generally Jorge Gutierrez who has been directing the march. Jorge had another excellent performance for Cal, shooting 8 of 17 from the field, nailing all nine of his free throws on his way to 25 points, dishing six assists, grabbing five rebounds, getting four steals, and putting up a block shot as well to lead the California Golden Bears to the second round of the NIT over the challenging Ole Miss Rebels.

Allen Crabbe added 20 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals, a pale and sick Harper Kamp contributed a gutty 11 points, and Richard Solomon grabbed 10 rebounds starting for the injured Markhuri Sanders-Frison, who is likely out for the year with a shoulder injury. Chris Warren had a yeoman's effort with 23 points and five three pointers to become Ole Miss's all time leading scorer, but shot a pedestrian 8 of 19 from the field to get to that point. Zach Graham contributed 17 points in support.

Cal now moves onto face the Colorado Buffaloes in the second round in Boulder Friday night on ESPNU. For more coverage on the game, go to the California Golden Blogs (Cal) and Red Cup Rebellion (Ole Miss) for further analysis.

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2011 NIT Basketball Tournament: Cal-Ole Miss Preview

The California Golden Bears will probably be playing their last home game of the season at Haas Pavilion when they take on the Mississippi Rebels in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. Cal is a small favorite, mostly due to having homecourt advantage.

The Bears will probably have to move the ball and get quality looks to get the win over the Rebels. Ole Miss has good shot blocking ability with Reginald Bucker and Terrance Henry, and will probably make it difficult for Cal's post players in Harper Kamp and Markhuri Sanders-Frison to get good looks at the basket on their own. Buckner and Henry are less proficient offensively, so we might see Cal's big men sag off and try a

The Rebels also have a speedy point guard in Chris Warren and a good strong steals leader in Trevor Gaskins, and Cal struggled in their Pac-10 tournament matchup with the USC Trojans with fast guard penetration. Brandon Smith might have his hands full with Warren, which will probably mean Warren will get Jorge Gutierrez. Finally, Zach Graham will have 50 pounds on Allen Crabbe, and both are strong offensive players, so something will have to give in their matchup of small forwards.

It's a pretty even matchup--Cal is ranked 67th in Pomeroy, Ole Miss 70th. The Rebels are a little more efficient offensively; the Bears a little more efficient defensively. Both teams shoot about the same, with Cal a bit worse in effective field goal defense. But the Bears are MUCH more effective at getting to the line and preventing other teams from going to the line too, so free throw shooting could be the difference in this one. Mississippi is a better offensive rebounding team, but Cal is generally pretty good at keeping teams off the glass.

Barring a huge upset by Texas Southern, the winner will likely take on the Colorado Buffaloes in the second round.

For more previews on tonight's NIT matchup from the perspective of Cal fans, head over to the California Golden Blogs. For Ole Miss fans, check out Red Cup Rebellion.

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2011 NIT College Basketball Tournament Results: St. Mary's Stunned By Kent State

The 2011 National Invitational Tournament kicked off today with some exciting finishes, including the St. Mary’s Gaels heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Kent State Golden Flashes. The Gaels entered the game as an eleven point favorite against Kent State but Kent State came out prepared to battle. Saint Mary’s appeared to be in position to roll to victory, leading by as many as 11 points with 8:36 to go. However, a late-game meltdown cost the Gaels a chance at further postseason play.

Gaels forward Rob Jones hit a three pointer with 2:27 to go to give SMC a six point lead. Kent State responded with a pair of layups to cut the lead to two before sending Mickey McConnell to the free throw line to attempt two free throws with 46 seconds left. The normally sure-handed McConnell hit the first free throw but missed the second one, leaving SMC up 68-65. Kent State scored a quick basket and then fouled Clint Steindle, who made both free throws giving St. Mary’s a 70-67 lead. Then things got crazy.

Kent State grabbed a layup as Michael Porrini was interfered with and given credit for the basket. On the ensuing St. Mary’s possession, the inbounds pass to Clint Steindl was lost out of bounds and Kent State got the ball back. A well drawn pass and drive to the lane gave the Golden Flashes a 71-70 lead with 4 seconds left. Mickey McConnell attempted a layup as time expired but it bounced off the rim. Suffice to say it was a heartbreaking end to the all-conference career of Mickey McConnell.

While the Gaels now head home, Kent State advances to face Fairfield who grabbed their own upset in defeating the Colorado State Rams.

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2011 NIT College Basketball Tournament: St. Mary's Gaels vs. Kent State Golden Flashes

The 2011 National Invitational Tournament kicks off tonight and tomorrow, and the Bay Area will have a pair of teams taking the court. The California Golden Bears get going tomorrow against Mississippi, but tonight will see the St. Mary’s Gaels (25-8, 11-3) host the Kent State Golden Flashes (23-11, 12-4) out of the Mid-American Conference. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 8:00pm pacific.

This is a particularly interesting matchup because both teams were the top seed in their respective conference tournaments but could not close the deal. The Gaels thought they had a shot at the NCAA tournament but their wins over St. John’s and Gonzaga this year were not enough to make it happen. Kent State finished with a solid record but it was built on some fairly weak competition, leading to an RPI of 87.

The Golden Flashes are led by Justin Greene, who averages 15.6 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game. He’ll find himself battling inside with SMC forward Rob Jones, who averages 13.6 PPG and 7.7 RPG. The Golden Flashes feature a solid guard lineup with Rodriquez Sherman averaging 12.9 points per game and Michael Porrinin leading the team with 4.4 assists per game. They’ll find themselves opposite WCC Player of the Year Mickey McConnell who averaged 16.7 points per game and 6.7 assists per game. Additionally, guard Matthew Dellavedova contributes 13.3 points per game.

The Gaels are a pretty heavy favorite tonight with an 11 point spread. The winner of this matchup will advance to face the winner of the 3-6 matchup tonight between Colorado State and Fairfield sometime between March 18 and 21.

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2011 NIT College Basketball Betting Odds: Cal, St. Mary's Favorites In Opening Round

The 2011 National Invitational Tournament kicks off tomorrow afternoon and naturally we've got betting odds on all the games. Of course, if you're betting on NIT college basketball games, you might need to get out more often. I might very well be one such person, so we'll see if I heed my own advice.

Whatever the case, we've got some gambling spreads for our Bay Area teams. Today the St. Mary's Gaels face off with the Kent State Golden Flashes. Saint Mary's is a heavy favorite with their 11 point spread one of the biggest of the first round. The line opened at -10.5 for SMC but it has bumped up a slight notch. This season the Gaels are 13-14 against the spread and 11-11 when they are favored. The Golden Flashes are 18-13 against the spread and 6-4 as an underdog. After losing the WCC championship game St. Mary's came back and crusher Weber State on Friday. If they retain any sort of chip on their shoulder from their NCAA tournament snub I believe they'll roll Kent State.

Tomorrow the California Golden Bears will do battle with the Mississippi Rebels. Cal opened as a 3.5 point favorite and is currently up to 4.5 points.Cal is 15-14 against the spread this year and 4-6 as a favorite. Ole Miss is 16-13 against the spread this year and 4-3 as an underdog. Needless to say, this is a fairly tight betting game. Cal is a solid enough basketball team, but they're also wildly inconsistent. They'll play an Arizona close and then get destroyed in the Pac-10 tournament by USC. I really have no idea what to make of them in terms of betting. That's usually a good reason to stay away.

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