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NIT Semifinals

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BYU COUGARS (24-11) vs. BAYLOR BEARS (21-14)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Baylor -3 & 153
 
A pair of high-scoring teams meet up in the first NIT Semifinal matchup on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden when Baylor takes on BYU.
 
The Cougars average 77.3 PPG this season (10th in nation) and have posted a robust 86.3 PPG so far in three NIT wins. The Bears also know how to put up points, with 76.0 PPG for the season (21st in D-I) and a whopping 93.3 PPG in the NIT. BYU has crushed its three NIT opponents, beating Washington by 21, Mercer by 19 and going on the road to clobber Southern Miss by 17 points. Baylor took out Long Beach State by a 112-66 score, but struggled to put away Arizona State (89-86 win) before handling Providence by 11 points in Wednesday's quarterfinals. These teams have actually met in each of the past two seasons, both resulting in Baylor wins. The Bears prevailed at BYU 86-83 on Dec. 17, 2011 and then beat them at home 79-64 this past Dec. 21.
 
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BYU has shot very well (46% FG) during its NIT run, but has also been dominating the glass with a +9.0 RPG margin, while committing a mere 10.0 TOPG in the three contests. The Cougars shoot pretty well from the floor (45.8%), and are an unselfish club with 16.2 APG (9th in nation) and a heady 1.34 Ast/TO ratio (20th in nation). But this team is far from perfect, making just 34.1% threes (158th in nation), blocking a paltry 2.4 shots per game (284th in D-I) and committing a large amount of fouls per game (18.7, 249th-fewest in nation). The bulk of the scoring falls on two players, SG Tyler Haws (21.6 PPG, 9th in nation) and PF Brandon Davies (17.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG). Haws scored at least 20 points in all five games in March, including a hefty 28.7 PPG on 54% FG in the NIT. He was held to 13 points (6-of-14 FG) with four boards and three assists in the earlier meeting with Baylor. Davies had an unbelievable game in Waco, scoring 26 of his team's 64 points, plus 17 rebounds (five offensive), three steals and three assists. He has also played a big role in his team's NIT success, averaging 20.0 PPG (47% FG, 17-of-21 FT) and 10.7 RPG.

Sophomore PG Matt Carlino (11.3 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.5 RPG) has done it all for the Cougars during the NIT, averaging 17.7 PPG (13-of-29 threes), 9.0 APG and 6.3 RPG. This team will need much more out of him than what they got at Baylor when he finished with just eight points, three rebounds and a season-low one assist in 27 minutes. Senior swingman Brock Zylstra (7.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG) played just 11 minutes in that meeting with the Bears, but has been a beast in the past two games with 18.5 PPG (9-of-17 threes) and 8.0 RPG.
 
Like BYU, Baylor shoots a high percentage (45.9% FG, 50th in nation) thanks to an unselfish offense averaging 15.8 APG (19th in D-I). However, the Bears aren't a great three-point shooting team (35.5%, 94th in nation), and they really struggle from the free-throw line, making just 68.6% (201st in D-I). Baylor is not a particularly strong defensive team either, giving up 66.6 PPG (173rd in nation) and producing just 6.6 steals per game (184th in D-I). Senior PG Pierre Jackson (19.7 PPG, 21st in D-I) is one of the most dynamic college players in the country with 6.9 APG (11th in nation), a 2.04 Ast/TO ratio and a strong 1.6 SPG. He also shoots 79% from the foul line despite playing so many minutes for this team (34.6 MPG). After receiving just 20 minutes of action in the blowout of Long Beach State, Jackson has been remarkable in the past two games, averaging 23.0 PPG (24-of-28 FT), 14.5 APG, 5.0 RPG and 2.5 SPG. In Wednesday's victory over Providence, he dished out 13 assists and committed zero turnovers. Jackson was one of five starters to score in double-figures against BYU in December, tallying team highs with 16 points, nine assists and four steals.

Junior PF Cory Jefferson (12.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG) hasn't missed much in the NIT, scoring 20.7 PPG on 71% FG with 6.0 RPG. He was extremely active against the Cougars earlier this season too, scoring 13 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Freshman C Isaiah Austin (12.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG) also posted a double-double that night versus BYU with 14 points, 10 boards and five blocks, which helped make up for his 5-for-15 shooting clip. Austin started off the NIT with identical games of 13 points and six rebounds, but didn't do much on Wednesday with a mere five points on 1-of-7 shooting. SG Brady Heslip (8.9 PPG) and SG A.J. Walton (7.0 PPG, 3.6 APG) both reached double-figures against the Cougars on Dec. 21, as Heslip scored 11 points (3-of-5 threes), while Walton pitched in 10 points, four assists and two steals. While Heslip has had a huge tournament (16.0 PPG, 14-of-25 threes), Walton has totaled a mere nine points (4-of-13 FG) in the three games combined. 
 
IOWA HAWKEYES (24-12) vs. MARYLAND TERRAPINS (25-12)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Iowa -3 & 135.5
 
Two schools that have made bettors quite happy this month, Iowa and Maryland, will play in the second NIT Semifinal matchup on Tuesday in Manhattan.
 
While the Hawkeyes are 9-0 ATS (7-2 SU) in their past nine games, the Terrapins are working on a seven-game ATS win streak (5-2 SU). Both teams have been extremely impressive so far in the NIT with Iowa winning its three games by 16, 12 and 11 points, while Maryland won by 16 and 10 points at home before going on the road to upset Alabama 58-57 last Tuesday. Both clubs have dominated the glass in the NIT, with the Hawkeyes sporting a +27 rebounding margin and the Terrapins not far behind with a +18 rebounding margin. These schools last met in 1999, an 83-65 home victory for the Terps.
 
Iowa is not a gifted offensive team, averaging just 70.6 PPG (93rd in nation) on 42.4% FG (219th in D-I) and 30.9% threes (269th in nation). But this team never takes a possession off defensively, holding teams to 62.6 PPG on 38.8% FG (18th in nation) and 29.5% threes (15th in D-I). This is also a very intelligent team, sporting a 1.19 Ast/TO ratio (44th in nation) while posting 4.9 blocks per game (31st in D-I) and a +5.0 RPG margin (38th in nation). Junior swingman Roy Devyn Marble (15.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.0 APG) has been phenomenal in the NIT, scoring at least 24 points in all three games, averaging 25.3 PPG on 49% FG and 23-of-28 FT (82%). He's also dished out 16 assists with just four turnovers in the three victories. Sophomore PF Aaron White (12.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG) didn't play very well in Wednesday's win at Virginia (6 pts on 1-of-6 FG, 5 reb), but he started the tournament with 12.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG in his first two games. White is one of the biggest reasons his team shoots so horribly from three-point range though, making a paltry 15-of-64 (23%) from downtown this season. Freshman PG Mike Gesell (8.7 PPG, 2.8 APG) is the team's third-leading scorer, but has been playing a much smaller role in the offense with just 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting in the three NIT games combined. PF Melsahn Basabe (7.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG) was shut out against Virginia (0-for-3 FG), but had been playing great in his previous five games with 9.2 PPG and 9.4 RPG. His size and strength will be needed to help counter Maryland star C Alex Len.
 
Maryland has been one of the better rebounding teams in the country at +8.7 RPG (4th among D-I schools), which is a big reason its FG Pct. defense is so impressive (38.4% FG, 10th in nation). The Terrapins score 71.0 PPG on 46.6% FG (34th in D-I), but they are not a team that lights it up from beyond the arc, making just 5.8 threes per game (210th in nation) on a 33.9% clip (167th in D-I). Maryland also hurts itself badly with poor free-throw shooting (68.2% FT, 212th in nation) and turnovers, producing a hefty 14.9 TOPG (290th in D-I) and a minus-4.2 TO margin (8th-worst in nation). C Alex Len (11.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG) has a great scoring touch for a 7-footer, knocking down 53% FG and 69% FT this season. He needs to do a better job of staying out of foul trouble though, with the same amount of fouls (11) as made field goals (11-of-23) so far in the NIT. He is coming off a monster game against Alabama though, netting 15 points (6-of-9 FG), grabbing 13 boards and blocking five shots.

Sophomore swingman Dez Wells (13.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG) is the team's leading scorer, tallying 10 straight double-figure scoring games. So far in the NIT, he's averaged 14.7 PPG on an impressive 73% FG and 7-of-8 from the line. SG Nick Faust (9.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG) started off the tournament with 15 points and 11 boards against Niagara, but has just 7.5 PPG (3-of-10 FG) and 3.5 RPG in two games since. PG Pe'Shon Howard (3.3 PPG, 3.6 APG) is a pass-first point guard who has a strong 2.23 Ast/TO ratio this season. In six postseason games (3 ACC Tournament, 3 NIT) he has totaled 18 assists and just six turnovers, although three of those miscues came last Tuesday in Tuscaloosa.
 

  
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