The Tournament is such a unique animal in how it shapes our perceptions and opinions of teams, coaches and players. I read this morning that the Harrison twins are once again considered fringe lottery picks. Coach Cal is being hailed as a genius for his tactics and ability to bring his team together at the right time. Big Blue Nation is rabid for their 9th championship.
If… just “if”… Fred Van Vleet’s final shot doesn’t go begging, every one of the above sentiments would not just no longer be true, but the opposite would be occurring. Coach Cal and his “one and done nonsense” would be decried, the Harrison’s would be busts (though likely have still declared) and outside of the grumbling in Lexington, these Cats would be chalked up as a failed experiment and long forgotten.
It’s an exhilarating and cruel event, and that is part of what makes it the best in American sports.
We chalked up a nice underdog winner last night with the furious Siena comeback at Fresno State. Let’s keep it going tonight with some good NIT action.
Tonight’s Free Picks:
Clemson Tigers vs. SMU Mustangs -3 (Total: 118.5)
Teams either use snubs on Selection Sunday as an excuse or a motivator; SMU apparently chose the latter. The Mustangs have fought their way to Madison Square Garden, a familiar home for coach Larry Brown, with three straight wins including a dramatic win over Cal on Nic Moore’s three-pointer. This is a talented team that now sits at 26-9, one of the best seasons in school history, and a win tonight would continue to punctuate the sentiment that they deserved to be in the REAL Tournament.
Clemson also needed a little late magic to rally past Belmont and advance. No one is crying for the Tigers berth in the NIT, but they have played good basketball the last three weeks and have some talent.
The difference in this game will come down to offensive efficiency. Larry Brown and his floor leader Nic Moore generally get good shots and shoot 46.3% from the floor. Clemson generally does not; they shoot a pathetic 42.% from the field, and remember that includes about a dozen cakewalks in the non-con schedule.
SMU is an above-average defensive team as well which further exacerbates the Tigers’ weakness. I like SMU to win the game tonight and I expect the crowd to get behind their old pal Larry Brown and his snubbed Mustangs. SMU is quickly gaining some cool cache in Dallas; Jason Garrett and Tony Romo have been spotted at more than a few games. I think SMU’s star continues to rise tonight as they earn a berth in the NIT Final and soak in some much-needed attention in the Garden.