#4 seed WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS (27-8)
vs. #2 seed WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS (22-12)
NIT – Semifinals
Tip-off: Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. EDT – New York, NY
Line: Wichita State -2.5, Total: 142
Who knew that the paths of the seasons experienced by NIT semifinalist Wichita State and NCAA semifinalist Connecticut would hold so many common threads?Who knew that when the Maui Invitational tipped off way back on November 22 just three days before thanksgiving, the two participants in that opening game would both be headed for the final four of a postseason tournament? When Wichita State and Connecticut battled tooth and nail, before the Huskies emerged with a four-point victory, it marked the beginning of a tournament run for Connecticut that has mirrored its record versus non conference opponents: perfect. The Huskies went 3-0 at the Maui Invitational, 5-0 in the Big East Tournament, and so far are 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament. What might have happened to Connecticut’s season if Wichita State could have hung on to that five-point lead in the last 3:33 of the game? The matchup did offer some foreshadowing of what was to come for the teams from a resiliency and toughness standpoint, as evidenced by the fact both teams are still playing in the last week of March. (Kemba Walker’s 29-point, second-half performance also gave us a taste of what was to come!). Now Wichita State is headed to New York City, where it will try and do what Connecticut has already done this season, win a tournament championship in Madison Square Garden. Standing in the way of all that are the Cougars from Washington State. Odds.
The Cougars have advanced to the NIT semifinals with three straight victories at home. They defeated Long Beach State 85-74, Oklahoma State 74-64, and last Wednesday got by a scrappy Northwestern squad, 69-66, in overtime. Once again, State’s Klay Thompson was in the middle of the rally, scoring 12 of his game-high 17 in the second half, including four of the team’s first five points in overtime. He also led his team with nine rebounds. “We did a nice job battling a tough Northwestern team tonight,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said. “We all showed a lot of character, especially down the stretch in the overtime period.” The Cougars could have easily won the game in overtime, but DeAngelo Casto (who was originally suspended from playing, but re-instated just before the game by the school’s Athletic Director) was called for goaltending a shot by the Wildcats forward John Shurna with 0:04 to play to tie the game. With 0.2 seconds to play, the Cougars Abe Lodwick was fouled, but missed both free throws, forcing overtime, and setting the stage for Thompson to save the day. The Cougars didn’t cover the spread against Northwestern, but are still 5-2 ATS in their past seven games and 13-8 ATS (62%) as a favorite this season. WSU is also 4-1 ATS on a neutral court, 9-4 ATS (69%) in non-conference games and 7-4 ATS (64%) after an ATS loss. Scores.
The path to the Big Apple has been a little more difficult for the Shockers. Unlike the Cougars, Wichita State had to go on the road and win an overtime thriller in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech to keep its season alive in the tournament’s second round. After that triumph, the team returned home to defeat Bobby Cremins’ College of Charleston team 82-75. Wichita State took a 12-point lead into the intermission, then held off a furious comeback attempt by the Cougars, who shot a blistering 52% from beyond the arc, but couldn’t climb the mountain and overtake WSU. “Boy, the fans here are something, and we got a little excited to start the game,” Cremins said. “We got away from our game, and we dug ourselves a hole.” The Shockers were led by a balanced attack. Gabe Blair led the team with 16 points and eight rebounds, J.T. Durley added 14 points, Joe Ragland scored 12, and Toure’ Murry had 11. Durley (11.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG) is the team’s leading scorer, second leading rebounder, and the only player averaging double-figures scoring on the team. The Shockers are a respectable 16-14 ATS this year, but are just 3-6 ATS in their past nine games.
In a game that is tighter than a newborn cub and its mama bear, we are going with Washington State to advance to the NIT championship game behind maybe the hottest player in the NIT field, Klay Thompson (22.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG), on a team that is averaging 76.0 PPG, almost three points higher than its season average. The following two FoxSheets trends support Cougars pick.
WASHINGTON STATE is 9-1 ATS (90.0%, +7.9 Units) when playing only its 2nd game in 8 days this season. The average score was WASHINGTON STATE 76.2, OPPONENT 65.6 – (Rating = 3*).
WASHINGTON STATE is 11-4 ATS (73.3%, +6.6 Units) versus good defensive teams – shooting pct defense of <=42% this season. The average score was WASHINGTON STATE 73.9, OPPONENT 69.6 – (Rating = 1*). Las Vegas odds.
This four-star FoxSheets trend supports choosing the Over on Tuesday.
WASHINGTON STATE is 9-0 OVER (+9.0 Units) in all neutral court games over the last 2 seasons. The average score was WASHINGTON STATE 82.6, OPPONENT 71.7 – (Rating = 4*).