Mississippi State Bulldogs (25-11) at Penn State Nittany Lions (24-13)
Our hot streak continued last night when we backed the Dons of the University of San Francisco at home against the Mean Green of North Texas. The Dons were -4-point favorites and the cover was never in jeopardy.
San Francisco jumped out to an early lead and led by sixteen at halftime. I mentioned in my pick yesterday that this felt like a mismatch and that I thought the Dons were an underrated team from an underrated league and that really showed last night.
This game was dominated by the Dons all evening long, and as this short three-game series shifts to Texas, you have to wonder if the Mean Green have any real shot at evening up the series?
Even if North Texas manages to defend its home court, they are going to have to win in San Francisco to take home the title. And after what I saw last night, I just don’t think that is going to happen.
I love this best two out of three finals for the CBI tournament. The NCAA tournament and its one and done structure is really great for ratings and excitement, but I feel like the two out of three format is better for actually finding out who the better team is. These teams will take tonight off before matching up again on Wednesday.
Today I will look in on the semi-finals of another post-season tournament, the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) as the Penn State Nittany Lions play the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
The Men’s National Invitational Tournament (NIT) has shifted to Madison Square Garden for its semi-final and final games. The NIT is played on team’s home courts through the first couple of rounds and now will finish out in the world’s most famous arena.
The Nittany Lions felt like they should have been playing in the NCAA Tournament, and not the NIT, but they haven’t let that weaken their spirit. Penn State has run through a tough gauntlet to get to the semis, having beat Temple, Notre Dame, and Marquette.
For Mississippi State, the Bulldogs didn’t have a real shot at dancing in the Big Dance and are happy getting this NIT berth. It has felt like the NCAA Tournament for the Bulldogs as they have had to beat a very tough string of teams to advance, all on the road.
The Nittany Lions are -2.5-point favorites. The total game over-under is set at 135 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The beating that Mississippi State put on Louisville in Kentucky in their last game opened a lot of eyes to just how good this Bulldog’s team is this year.
There wasn’t a huge amount of support for the Bulldogs to get an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament this year, but they have shown in this tournament that maybe they deserved a look. The Bulldogs have beaten Nebraska, Baylor, and Louisville in the NIT, all on the road. They beat Louisville by 23 points.
When you look back on the Bulldog’s body of work on the year, it isn’t that surprising that they are enjoying success in the postseason. They have wins over Texas A&M, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, and Stephen F Austin this year. All of those teams made the NCAA tournament. They can compete against high-level teams and win. They will need to do just that against a solid Penn State team tonight.
A lot of people, myself included thought that Penn State did enough to get into the NCAA tournament this year. But now that I really take a step back and look at the full body of work for the Nittany Lions, and the teams they beat, I am not all that impressed.
They beat Ohio State three times. That was remarkable. The Buckeyes ran roughshod over the entire Big 10 except Penn State, so that has to be worth something.
But when you look at the rest of their resume, it lacks substance. Their best non-conference win was against George Mason. They lost to Purdue, Maryland, Michigan, and Michigan State in league play. With Ohio State being the one big exception, this team just didn’t beat anybody this year. They lost to bad teams like Indiana, Rider, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
In this tournament, the Nittany Lions have shined, as they beat a very good Notre Dame team as well as knocking off solid squads like Temple and Marquette. But you really have to scratch your head and wonder why they are favorites tonight.
The Big 10 had a lot of hype around it this season, but it was the SEC that ended up getting more teams into the tournament. So, by that logic, you could easily argue the SEC was the better league, and that Mississippi State fared much better in league play than Penn State did.
I expect this to be a great game. Both of these teams should enjoy the national spotlight and the big stage in the Big Apple. But I see a fire in this Mississippi State team right now. They are going on the road and beating strong teams. Much of this team is coming back next year, and I expect this to be a formidable squad next year that is playing in the NCAA tournament, and not the NIT.
I like the Bulldogs tonight in what should be a dogfight. I think they win the game outright. That being said, late March college basketball can be a bit unpredictable, so I will snatch up the 2.5-points just in case.
Give me the Mississippi State Bulldogs +2.5 points tonight from the Garden!