Before the NCAA Tournament begins with the First Four on Thursday, we have a couple of NIT matchups to get to this evening. The Toledo Rockets and Richmond Spiders will get the NIT Tournament underway at 7:00 p.m. EST at the UNT Coliseum in Denton, Texas. All of the First Four games this season will take place on Thursday, and the first round is pushed back to Friday and Saturday.
This will feel a bit weird playing first round games on a Saturday, but it was made in an attempt to give an extra day off because of Covid. It gives an extra day between the conference tournament games and NCAA Tournament. For a team like Virginia, the decision to push games back a day seems really intelligent now.
The Rockets are coming off a 87-80 loss against the Ohio Bobcats in the MAC Championship. They were the favorites expected to win and advance to the NCAA Tournament, but the Bobcats had other plans. Ohio looked like they just wanted it more. The Rockets need to shake off the loss and focus on the NIT. For some teams, that isn’t easy to do.
The NIT Tournament oftentimes comes down to what team got over their NCAA Tournament dreams quicker. Toledo recently had a bad loss against Central Michigan on March 2, 81-79, and then needed overtime to beat Ball State in the quarterfinal of the MAC Tournament. The Rockets were 17-point favorites against Central Michigan and lost straight up. They closed as 2.5-point favorites against Ohio and lost 87-80.
The Rockets go into the NIT as a No. 3 seed, which sounds about right. Richmond, who has been struggling recently as well, is a No. 2 seed. Based on their issues as of late, I’m not so sure Richmond deserves that seeding. Toledo went 21-8 this season, while the Spiders went 13-8. Keep in mind that the MAC wasn’t a very good conference at all, so that certainly helped boost their record. Head below for our free Toledo vs. Richmond pick for March 17, 2021.
Toledo Rockets vs. Richmond Spiders NIT Tournament Betting Odds:
Toledo vs. Richmond Prediction:
Richmond goes into Wednesday on a three-game losing streak. They have losses against Saint Louis, 72-67, St. Joseph’s, 76-73, and bounced by a bad Duquesne team in the first round of the A-10 Tournament, 67-62. Richmond was an 8.5-point favorite in that game, but didn’t play up to expectations. They’ve been out of form since winning and covering against UMass on February 23, 79-65. Two huge injuries loom for Richmond in this game tonight.
It’s very possible that the Spiders are going to be without their leading-scorer in Blake Francis. He averaged 16.1 points and shot 42.4% from the field for the Spiders. Francis is dealing with a hip injury and is questionable to play in the first round. Along with Francis, forward Grant Golden is also questionable. Golden has scored 12.7 points and 6 rebounds per game.
He’s shooting 56.2% from the field and would be a big missing piece on the blocks if Golden can’t play. That would remove Richmond’s most efficient offensive playmakers from the court. The Spiders’ offense has looked pedestrian recently, with 72 points through their last five games. They scored fewer than 70 points in two of their last three outings. Their defense tried to carry the load in those games, but they struggled to keep up offensively.
Richmond allowed an average of 69.3 points per game for 148th in the NCAA. Toledo can shoot the ball, as they recorded 81.3 points per game for 15th in the country. However, the Rockets benefitted from playing in the MAC that had a lot of bad defensive teams. I suspect that Richmond can do a serviceable enough job to contain the Toledo offense. A final score of 78-71 looks about right. The total looks a touch too high.