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Oh crap! The NIT starts tonight!

And three Big Ten teams are playing! And they all start with 'I'! SO MUCH IS HAPPENING. Here's your previews, breakdown of each team's chances, and open thread.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Championship-George Washington vs Valparaiso Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I want to apologize for being so remiss as to have forgotten my humble roots. This time last year I would have been ecstatic to be writing up an NIT preview. I promise never again to forget from whence I came.

Anyways, the NIT bracket was announced on Sunday! That’s exciting! Here it is:

Quad City Times

And now, really quickly, previews of each team along with their roads to Madison Square Garden! We’ve broken it down by seed, but Iowa plays tomorrow, while Illinois and Indiana play tonight!

[1] Iowa Hawkeyes

Round 1: vs. South Dakota Coyotes (22-11, 12-4 Summit; KP 144)

Wednesday || 8pm || ESPN2

Note: Time pushed from 6pm to 8pm due to East Coast snowstorms.

Preview: So, um, the ‘Yotes appear to be mobilizing for a quick jaunt from Vermillion across the state of Iowa. That’d be fun.

Take I-80. That US-20 drive is the worst, and it’ll probably be dark at the end so it’ll be tough to read a book like I did the last time I drove it.


The North Dakota State Jackrabbits are coming to town! WOO!! NIT!!! The Coyotes do have a former Hawkeye on their team in point guard Trey Dickerson, who got very little playing time last season with Iowa. He's super quick, though, and Jordan Bohannon has had trouble staying in front of players like that. Still, though, Iowa should win this fairly easily in front of what should be a great crowd (yours truly, included). Missing the big tourney is a bit of a disappointment, but this should still be a good learning experience for the young team.

The ‘Yotes don’t do anything particularly well, and they like to push the tempo, which will play right into Iowa’s preferred gameplan. They lost by 12 to Nebraska, their only Big Ten matchup, and split with Omaha, which I’m sure Iowa could possibly do if they got a second bite at the apple.

Things pretty much start and end with 6’3" guard Matt Mooney, who poured in 18 a game this year for USD. The largest forwards the ‘Yotes will throw at Iowa will be Tyler Flack and sometimes Tyler Hagedorn, who will struggle against the athleticism of Tyler Cook inside. I like the Hawkeyes to play bully-ball here and use their athleticism to power past a South Dakota team disappointed to choke away its Summit League title in the conference tournament.

Road to MSG: Assuming they get past Fresno State, the 4-seed TCU Horned Frogs loom as a big challenge for the Hawkeyes, as they slow the game down and are extremely efficient on offense and defense alike. Alabama and Clemson are across the bracket as the 3- and 2-seed, respectively, and while Clemson is the highest-rated team in Kenpom not to make the NCAA Tournament (they were also 17-15, which is no bueno), Alabama is one of the best defensive teams in the country and will challenge Iowa’s outside shooters to create space for themselves.

That said, I don’t know if I’m picking against Peter Jok and gunner extraordinaire Jordan Bohannon, given that the former is riding out his last moments in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the latter is shooting the damn lights out of the gym.

Probability of MSG?: 33%. I’ve got them or the Crimson Tide advancing, and I think home court seals it for Iowa, assuming their fans and students are willing to turn up and give Jok the send-off he deserves.

[2] Illinois Fighting Illini

Round 1: vs. Valparaiso Crusaders (24-8, 14-4 Horizon; KP 97)

Tuesday || 6:15pm || ESPN2

Preview, courtesy of Thumpasaurus:

I have no idea what to expect. Valpo's not as good without Bryce Drew, and they're missing their best player, whose name I can't recall, but it's hard to know if our players will give a shit. Either way, this will end poorly because Illinois State is the best basketball team in the state. [ed. note: hey :( unfair]

I don't care about this tournament, I don't care about the big tournament, I just want my goddamn coach.

Road to MSG: It’s a tough road to hoe for the Illini, as they will likely be rewarded with a date against a tall and physical Utah Utes club that won 20 games in an admittedly-weak Pac-12. Should they survive that, they’re likely going to play an incredibly-snubbed, incredibly-pissed off Illinois State Redbirds squad that has taken to begging for Power-5 matchups on Twitter.

Probability of MSG? 10%. This would be closer to 20% if Illinois had a coach, but there’s too much up in the air for a rudderless Illini club.

[3] Indiana Hoosiers

Round 1: at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (17-15, 8-10 ACC; KP 82)

Tuesday || 8pm || ESPN2

Preview: Ongoing renovations at Assembly Hall (I lied: per TCQ per someone else, it's because of students not being on campus) mean the Hoosiers will head to Atlanta to take on the Yellow Jackets, who fell off the bubble during the ACC Tournament. Tech brings the 7th-best defense in the country, per Kenpom, and while they fell on the round, managed to hold a good Penn State offense to just 67 points in an ACC-Big Ten Challenge loss.

Junior center Ben Lammers controls the largest share of the Jackets’ offense, shooting over 50% from the floor and averaging 9.3 rebounds to boot. He’ll be a nice test for Thomas Bryant inside, though Indiana should bring enough weapons to overwhelm Georgia Tech tonight—only four players average more than 6 ppg for the Jackets.

By the way, Georgia Tech played something called Tusculum in the middle of February. Took a scheduling pointer from SEC football, I see.

Road to MSG: It’s actually a pretty intriguing one for the Hoosiers, who match up nicely with potential Round 2 matchup Georgia (saves on travel, too! More for Tom Crean’s buyout). Then there’s possibly Monmouth or, most likely, 1-seed Syracuse looming in the section final. This isn’t the same Indiana that beat Kansas and North Carolina earlier this year, obviously, but they have made a name for themselves in these high-profile matchups.

Probability of MSG?: 15%. I’ll take the Hoosiers, even on the road for all three, to out-athlete their opponents in the first two, and damn if an NIT Final Four might not be enough to keep Crean around.

Anyways, this is apparently an NIT preview! Feel free to talk about these and all of tonight’s games here!