The NCAA Tourney is on hiatus until the weekend and the Final Four retakes center stage (just my opinion, but the wait is too long – interest wanes and people move on along with their torn up brackets…) but while we are waiting, there are actually a pair of pretty good basketball games tonight in New York in the NIT Semifinals.
In the opener, red-hot Baylor takes on a BYU team that finally looks like the team that was ranked in the preseason. Both have played very well to get here and both have a ton of offensive firepower. In the late game, Iowa, perhaps the best team not to make the NCAA field, given they finished 6th in the Big Ten, ahead of Minnesota and Illinois) will take on a Maryland squad with a lottery pick playing center and an NBA-level talented wing scorer. It’s a good night of hoops, despite the lack of glamor associated with the NIT.
BYU Cougars vs. Baylor Bears -3
BYU has caught fire lately, and much of it has to do with the uncontrollable scoring outbursts of Tyler Haws. Haws poured in 25 in his last game against Southern Miss and has tallied at least 20 in his last five games including a 37-point outburst against Washington.
I don’t think Baylor will stop him completely, but they do possess some of the quickness and athleticism to give him some trouble. More importantly, they possess a ton of size to make like miserable for Brandon Davies and the rest of the scrappy Cougars who depend on offensive rebounds so heavily. There shouldn’t be too many available against the front line of Baylor and Isaiah Austin.
Baylor has beaten bigtime teams like Kansas this season and seems to play better in the bright lights. New York is right up senior point guard Pierre Jackson’s alley. Expect him to play big tonight and lead the Bears to the win.
Free Pick: Baylor Bears -3
Iowa Hawkeyes -3.5 vs. Maryland Terrapins
Based on their resume, I am still surprised Iowa didn’t make the tournament. Based on their talent level, it is still inconceivable that Maryland didn’t… so who has the edge tonight? Defensively, you have to love Iowa’s Big Ten-style toughness. They held some pretty good teams under 60 points this year, including Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. They’ve also beaten some good teams; five tourney teams in all.
Maryland has a similar story. They’ve knocked off Duke twice for some marquee wins, but no-showed in other games like the loss to Boston College and the loss to Georgia Tech. Ultimately, their undoing was a down ACC and a terrible pre-conference schedule. However, there is no denying the talent to beat big time teams.
This should be a tough-minded and hard-fought game. In the end, I give the edge to Maryland because of 7’1’’ Alex Len inside. I like him to get enough “easy” buckets to prevail. Plus, getting 3 ½ points in a game as evenly matched as this is nice as well.
Free Pick: Maryland Terrapins +3.5