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.