-Unlike last year’s chaotic start to the NIT, chalk held up in all 9 home games of the first round played last night. There were a couple of close results – USC needed overtime at home to hold off UNC-Asheville before winning 103-98 in overtime. Note that USC’s leading scorer Chimezie Metu will not play in the NIT – that is his personal decision as far as we know. Asheville did have a chance to win in regulation, but alas were not able to make their final shot at that time. Louisville also came from behind after trailing by as many as 7 points in the 2nd quarter before coming back to win 66-58. Rider also led by 8 at halftime at Oregon, but the Ducks blew the game open in the 4th quarter and beat the Broncs 99-86. Other winners included Notre Dame, Baylor, Middle Tennessee, Saint Mary’s, Oklahoma State and Western Kentucky.
-The Team of the People (Cal Baptist – West Region) learned last night that they will be the #7 overall seed in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight next week at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They will take on #2 Queens College of North Carolina (Southeast Region) in their opener. Other teams that advanced to the Elite Eight were Ferris State (Midwest), West Texas A&M (South Central), Northern State (Central), Le Moyne (East), East Stroudsburg (Atlantic) and Barry (South).
-There was also one opening round game in the CIT – Utah Valley had a comfortable 22-point win at home against Eastern Washington.
-(6) LOUISIANA AT (3) LOUISIANA STATE (7:00 PM, ESPN3/WatchESPN). This will be a fun in-state matchup; Louisiana earned an automatic invite to the NIT after winning the Sun Belt regular-season title in decisive fashion. LSU was much improved in Year 1 under Will Wade and even looked like they might turn the corner for the NCAA Tournament back in early January after a good start in the SEC before eventually tailing off.
-(7) HARVARD AT (2) MARQUETTE (7:00 PM, ESPN2). Harvard also earned automatic qualification for the NIT after earning the #1 seed in the Ivy League tournament (they tied with Penn for the regular season championship). Marquette will be playing this and any future home games in the NIT on campus in the much smaller Al McGuire Center.
-(5) TEMPLE AT (4) PENN STATE (8:00 PM, ESPNU). While Penn State’s highlights seemed to be concentrated solely on 3 wins against Ohio State, Temple was a little more diversified with early-season wins against Clemson, Auburn and Wichita State. However, both teams failed to consistently win against fellow NIT teams and teams below that cut line – hence this old Atlantic 10 rivalry being renewed for one night only.
-(7) UC-DAVIS AT (2) UTAH (9:00 PM, ESPN3/WatchESPN). UC-Davis followed up their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid from last season with a regular-season title in the Big West. Alas, they ended up in the NIT after a loss to eventual Big West champion Cal State-Fullerton in the semifinal round. Utah failed to win in their Pac-12 opener against Oregon, but they were at least a team of discussion as far as at-large NCAA bids last week.
-(5) NEBRASKA AT (4) MISSISSIPPI STATE (9:00 PM, ESPN2). There is actually some familiarity between these two teams – they played a charity exhibition in the preseason that Mississippi State won in Starkville back in October. This should be a fun matchup between a pair of homecourt heroes.
-(4) BOISE STATE AT (5) WASHINGTON (10:00 PM, ESPN3/WatchESPN). This should have been a game that Boise hosted, but Taco Bell Arena is booked with 1st and 2nd-round NCAA Tournament games this week. However, one of Boise’s highlights this season was a win at Oregon – they are just as capable of winning a 2nd time in a Pac-12 venue.
-(6) BYU AT (3) STANFORD (10:00 PM, ESPNU). The Cougars were the last at-large team selected in the NIT field – they made a late push with their win against Saint Mary’s in the WCC semifinals last week. Stanford also improved after being hamstrung with injuries earlier in the season.
-NIAGARA AT EASTERN MICHIGAN (7:00 PM). While both teams are coming off of disappointing losses in their respective conference tournaments, it had to sting more in one respect for Niagara after being upset in their MAAC opener against Fairfield. However, Eastern Michigan is also coming in looking to make amends after a 1-point loss in the MAC semifinals to Toledo.
-SAINT FRANCIS-PA AT ILLINOIS-CHICAGO (7:00 PM). The Flames come into this game much improved over the course of the last two seasons, but ended their regular season with 3 consecutive losses to Wright State, NKU and Milwaukee. Saint Francis was originally picked to win the NEC in the preseason, but were short-circuited in their NEC tournament opener at home against Fairleigh Dickinson.
-LAMAR AT TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (8:00 PM). A pair of southern Texas schools will be reunited for the final game of the night in the CIT. UTSA actually finished 5th in C-USA, but there was no shame in losing to eventual champion Marshall in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament. Lamar finished #6 in the Southland, but they lost their conference tournament opener to Central Arkansas.
-JACKSONVILLE STATE AT CANISIUS (7:00 PM). Postseason play in the Big 4 got off to a good start with St. Bonaventure beating UCLA in the NCAA First Four last night – we’ll see if Canisius (along with Niagara tonight) can give Buffalo-area fans more reason for optimism tonight in their opener against a Jax State team that lost in the OVC semifinals.
-MIAMI-OHIO AT CAMPBELL (7:00 PM). While Chris Clemons and Campbell couldn’t replicate the same run they had in the Big South tournament last year, they will get to play host to a much-improved Miami team tonight in the thriving metropolis of Buies Creek.
-TEXAS-RIO GRAND VALLEY AT NEW ORLEANS (8:00 PM). This season, the inclusion of UTRGV gives the WAC 5 total teams in the postseason – their highest percentage of postseason teams since their salad days in the 1990s. Their reward is a trip to New Orleans to take on the Privateers out of the Southland.
-NORTH TEXAS AT SOUTH DAKOTA (8:00 PM). While South Dakota was denied further advancement out of the Summit league thanks to in-state foe South Dakota State, the silver lining for tonight will be a chance to play at least one postseason game on campus. Also keep an eye on North Texas in the near future in Year 1 of the Grant McCasland regime.
-CENTRAL ARKANSAS AT SEATTLE (10:00 PM). Is it me, or does CAU play some of their best ball in the Pacific Time Zone? They had a win at Cal and a near miss at UCLA back in November. Seattle was also competitive against New Mexico State before ultimately losing in the WAC semifinals.
-MERCER AT GRAND CANYON (10:00 PM). The Lopes fell one game short of winning the WAC Tournament in their first season of eligibility, but nonetheless will get to play at least one more home game in front of a rabid crowd. Mercer was one-and-done in the SoCon after losing to Wofford in their opener.
-COLGATE AT SAN FRANCISCO (10:00 PM). The Raiders missed a chance to make the NCAA Tournament for only the 3rd time in school history after losing at Bucknell in the Patriot championship last Wednesday. However, the Dons are very difficult to beat at home – ask Saint Mary’s how tough it can be.