CIT Game of the Day – Tuesday, March 31, 2015: NJIT at Northern Arizona

NJIT at Northern Arizona, 9:00 PM Eastern, CBS Sports Network

For our Final Four Bracket Racket podcast, CLICK HERE.

The Final Four.  The National Semifinals.  The last four teams remaining, squaring off for a berth in the title game and an opportunity to cut down the nets and be crowned national champions.  This weekend, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Duke will square off for one such title.  But for us here at HOOPS HD, the real championship, the real Final Four, starts tonight.  It begins at 7:00 PM Eastern on CBS Sports Network when Evansville hosts Tennessee-Martin in the first of the two 2015 CIT semifinals.  Then, at 9:00, our adopted team, the Team of the People, the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders face off in Flagstaff, Arizona with the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks for the second spot in Thursday night’s title game.

Northern Arizona enters the game tonight with a record of 22-14 on the season.  They have won at Grand Canyon, at Sacramento State, and by one point at home over Kent State in an overtime thriller to make the semifinal round.  22 wins already is a school record for the Lumberjacks.  In addition, their three postseason victories this season are their only postseason wins in program history.  NAU will look for its senior leaders, Quinton Upshur and Aaseem Dixon, to try to lead them to yet another victory and a shot at the title.

Standing in NAU’s way is the team that we adopted here at HOOPS HD at the start of the season.  NJIT entered the year as the nation’s lone independent, knowing that an NCAA tournament berth was pretty much an impossibility without any shot at an automatic bid.  We followed them game by game, campaigning hard for their inclusion in the CIT.  With a huge program-making win at Michigan back in December, followed by a stretch of winning 13 of 15 games to end the regular season, the Highlanders were rewarded with not only a berth in the CIT, but home games in the first three rounds.  They picked up thrilling victories over New Hampshire, Cleveland State and Canisius in those games in front of some of the loudest and craziest crowds that any team has had cheering for them all season.  Tonight, the Highlanders, led by Ky Howard, Damon Lynn, Winfield Willis and Tim Coleman, take their show on the road, needing yet another huge road victory to continue their magical season and have a shot at doing something truly amazing — winning a postseason tournament.  This is the true Final Four, the real national semifinal, and it should be a great game.

Bracket Racket: March 30th

David and Chad look back at all the action from the NCAA Tournament so far.  They also look at the CIT, CBI and NIT Tournaments, and touch on some of the coaching moves that have taken place.

 

And for all you radio lovers, below is an mp3 version of the show….

CIT Game of the Day – Saturday, March 28, 2015: Canisius at NJIT

Canisius at NJIT, 7:30 PM Eastern, watchcollegeinsider.com

Most sports fan are well aware that two spots in the Final Four will be decided tonight as Kentucky battles Notre Dame and Wisconsin battles Arizona for spots in Indianapolis next weekend.  What most people do not realize is that a third Final Four team will be decided tonight as well.  That Final Four team is in the CIT as Canisius travels to Newark, New Jersey to take on NJIT for the final spot in the CIT semifinals and a matchup Tuesday night against Northern Arizona.

Canisius enters tonight’s game at 18-14 on the season, including a home win over Dartmouth and a win at Bowling Green in their first two CIT games.  Jim Baron’s Golden Griffins finished the regular season strong, winning four out of five before falling in the MAAC quarterfinals to Monmouth.  They are led by Zach Lewis and Josiah Heath.  Lewis put up 20 points in the first round against Dartmouth while Heath scored 23 against Bowling Green.

The Golden Griffins will have their hands full tonight as they travel to what will be a packed Fleisher Center to battle our adopted team, the Team of the People, the NJIT Highlanders (20-11).  NJIT’s season has certainly been magical as the nation’s lone independent scored a huge road win at Michigan and a home win over Yale during the season.  They also won their first two CIT games, knocking off New Hampshire in the first round and beating Cleveland State in one of the most exciting games this season in the second round, with Ky Howard’s three with approximately 25 seconds left giving the Highlanders the win.  The magical story of NJIT will try to be continued tonight as they look to become one of only a very small handful of teams playing on the final day of March.

 

NCAA TOURNAMENT

-You know what’s great about this website??  We can give top billing to NJIT if it suits us to do so.  But, in the other tournament, there are a couple of games that are at least noteworthy.  Arizona and Wisconsin face off in a rematch from last year’s Elite Eight game, which was one of the most exciting in the tournament.  I love that match-up because of the contrasting styles, and think that we’ll see another great game tonight.

-All year long, I’ve said that Kentucky has struggled against teams that like to play half court, (ie Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Florida and LSU).  I also said that if they played a good defensive half court team like West Virginia, that I wouldn’t expect them to win.  After Thursday night, I’ve decided to stop talking.  Notre Dame is exactly the kind of team that, a week ago, I would have said was built to beat Kentucky.  I think the Irish can win, but it would probably surprise me less if they lost by thirty than won by one.

NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen: Friday, March 27th

-We had four games last night, and three of them were great.  The one that wasn’t was the one that I thought West Virginia would win, and that did not happen in a very big way.

-#8 NC STATE VS #4 LOUISVILLE.  I hadn’t really been impressed with Louisville this year, but I was in their win against Northern Iowa.  I thought it was one of the best teams they’ve beaten, and one of the best games they’ve played, all year.  These two are both in the ACC, so they’ve played each other already with NC State winning at Louisville.  The Wolfpack are also coming off an impressive defensive performance and win against a very good Villanova team, so they are certainly up to the challenge.

-#7 MICHIGAN STATE VS #3 OKLHAOMA.  Michigan State has looked as good as anyone in the country these past few weeks, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they got all the way to the Final Four.  Oklahoma had to sweat out Dayton, but still came away with the win.  Michigan State took down a Virginia team that appeared to be as good as any of the #1 seeds.  That followed a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament where they nearly took down Wisconsin.

-#5 UTAH VS #1 DUKE.  Duke is as good as anyone in the country.  Utah is good, but they’re not as good as anyone in the country and they’re probably not as good as Duke.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blue Devils won in a fashion to where people are changing the station before the game is over.

-#11 UCLA VS #2 GONZAGA.  The last time these two met in the Sweet Sixteen, it was epic.  This time, it may be an epic blowout for the Zags, although I’m not counting out the possibility that UCLA will win for the simple purpose of annoying me.  As I said yesterday, I do not feel they belonged in the field, and even if they win it all it won’t change my opinion.  All that aside, though, I think they’re in way over their heads today.

CIT Game of the Day – Friday, March 27, 2015: Kent State at Northern Arizona

Kent State at Northern Arizona, 10:00 PM Eastern, Local TV/Fox College Sports-Atlantic/ watchcollegeinsider.com

And then there were six.  After Evansville’s win last night, two of the four spots in the CIT Final Four have been set.  The third will be decided tonight in Flagstaff, Arizona as the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks host the Kent State Golden Flashes.

NAU enters tonight’s game at 21-14 on the season, including wins at Grand Canyon and at Sacramento State in their first two CIT games.  Quinton Upshur has scored 19 and 22 points in his first two CIT games and will be looking to lead his team again tonight.  If he gets enough help from the rest of his teammates, including Kris Yanku, Aaseem Dixon and Jordyn Martin (who had a season best 27 points in the win over Sacramento State), the Lumberjacks have a great chance to advance to the semifinal round.

Standing in NAU’s way is the MAC’s Kent State Golden Flashes.  Kent State enters tonight’s game at 23-11.  The Golden Flashes have already won twice on the road in the tournament, at Middle Tennessee and at Texas A&M-Corpus Cristi.  The Golden Flashes are led by Jimmy Hall who scored 20 and 23 points in his first two CIT games, and added 13 rebounds for the double-double against Corpus Christi.  Hall will need help from the likes of Kris Brewer and Devareaux Manley tonight if Kent State wants to continue its season at least one more game.  If Hall and his teammates can step up, picking up a third straight road win in the CIT is definitely a possibility.

NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen: Thursday, March 26th

-#5 WEST VIRGINIA VS #1 KENTUCKY.  Okay, I’m not going to go so far to say that it would surprise me if Kentucky won, but if I had to pick up a straight up winner, I think I’d go with West Virginia.  The reason??  They look a lot like the kinds of teams Kentucky has struggled against.  They’re not an Arkansas type team that Kentucky would put away, but rather a tough defensive half court team that can actually shoot the ball.  They’re better than Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and the like that Kentucky has struggled against.  Kentucky may win.  They may win by a lot.  But, this is one of their toughest match ups of the season.

-#7 WICHITA STATE VS #3 NOTRE DAME.  Both teams got here by beating teams they rarely play, but that they should always play.  Notre Dame won an overtime thriller against a very good Butler team to get to a stage of the tournament they’re not used to getting to under Mike Brey.  Wichita State absolutely blew Kansas’s doors off in the second half in what had to be one of the most feel good wins in their program’s history.  I’m excited for this match up and think it’s a toss up.  Notre Dame won the ACC Tournament and has beaten some great teams this year, whereas Wichita State is probably a little undervalued.

-#4 NORTH CAROLINA VS #1 WISCONSIN.  I love how Wisconsin has been playing lately.  UNC has looked really good as well, and is coming off a big win against a pretty good Arkansas team, but as good as they are I just think Wisky is too tough.  They knocked off Arizona in the Elite Eight last year in one of the tournament’s most exciting games, and we could be headed for a rematch this year.

-#6 XAVIER VS #2 ARIZONA.  One of the storylines here is that Sean Miller used to be Xavier’s head coach and Chris Mack was his assistant.  Xavier has looked really good at times this year, and has played well since the start of the Big East Tournament, but Arizona has looked absolutely sensational.  Like I said, an Arizona v Wisky rematch would be exciting

 

OTHER BASKETBALL TIDBITS

-NJIT, our adopted team, and the Team of the People, has advanced to the CIT Quarterfinals with an exciting win over Cleveland State and will be playing at home, again, this Saturday night.

-The Big East, in its current format, has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game against a team seeded better than #10th.

-#1 seeds outside the Power Five are 0-3 in the Round of 32 the last three years.

-The NIT semifinals are set.  Old Dominion will face Stanford and Miami FL will face Temple.

-UCLA is in the Sweet Sixteen despite everyone saying they did not belong.  This does not change the fact that everyone was right.  They could win it all and it still does not justify their inclusion any more than a third place team in baseball being allowed to play in and win the World Series would justify their inclusion.  If anything, it makes it even more unfair because they’ve taken advantage of an opportunity they didn’t deserve in the first place.