Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM
Tuesday's NIT Semifinals
Lipscomb (-1, 150 ½) vs. Wichita State – 7:00 PM EST – ESPN
This isn’t exactly the matchup people expected for the semifinals when the NIT began as Lipscomb (28-7 SU, 18-15 ATS) was a five-seed and Wichita State (22-14 SU, 21-14-1 ATS) was listed as a six-seed. The Bison were one win away from capturing the automatic bid out of the Atlantic Sun conference, but lost to Liberty at home, 74-68 to settle for the NIT.
Liberty proved to be a worthy champion from the A-Sun as the Flames bounced Mississippi State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. However, Lipscomb didn’t hang its head for the consolation prize of playing in the NIT as the Bison went on the road (all in the state of North Carolina) to knock off Davidson, UNC-Greensboro, and North Carolina State all in the underdog role.
Lipscomb rallied to beat Davidson in the opening round as 2 ½-point underdogs, 89-81 as the Bison erased a five-point halftime deficit. The Bison shot 53% from the floor, led by Michael Buckland’s 18 points as Lipscomb connected on 11 three-pointers. Lipscomb crushed top-seed UNC-Greensboro in the second round, 86-69 as 1 ½-point ‘dogs, paced by Rob Marberry’s 24 points on 12-of-13 shooting from the floor to help the Bison improve to 7-2 ATS this season when receiving points.
The final victory for Lipscomb was a thrilling one in Raleigh as the Bison squeezed past N.C. State, 94-93, while outscoring the Wolfpack in the second half, 56-46. Another member of the Bison was the star this time around as senior guard Garrison Matthews went off for 44 points, while drilling eight treys. Lipscomb entered the NIT on a 2-7 ATS run, which included six non-covers as a double-digit favorite. The underdog role worked out for the Bison, who are playing in their first ever NIT Final Four.
Wichita State had an invitation to the Big Dance in each of the previous seven seasons, including a Final Four appearance in 2013, but a complete roster overhaul put the Shockers in unfamiliar territory. The Shockers lost three games in November, while suffering five defeats before AAC play even began (WSU lost eight games all of last season).
Gregg Marshall’s team started AAC action at 1-6, including ugly back-to-back double-digit road losses to UConn and USF. However, things slowly started to turn around for the Shockers, who compiled a 9-2 run to finish conference play, although none of the victories came against great competition (six wins against Tulane, East Carolina, and SMU). Wichita State managed a pair of AAC tournament victories over East Carolina and Temple before getting squeezed by Cincinnati in the semifinals as five-point ‘dogs in a 66-63 setback.
Just like Lipscomb, Wichita State had to do its damage on the highway as the Shockers beat Furman, Clemson, and Indiana on the road to make its first NIT Final Four since 2011 (which they won). After knocking off Furman as a 4 ½-point underdog in the first round, 76-70, the Shockers tripped up Clemson, 63-55 as 6 ½-point ‘dogs, while limiting the Tigers to 28% shooting from the floor. Wichita State took care of top-seed Indiana, 73-63 as 3 ½-point ‘dogs, 73-63, while limiting its eighth opponent in the last 10 games to less than 70 points.
Since failing to cover in the season finale victory at Tulane, the Shockers have covered six consecutive games, while becoming the first team in the history of the NIT to defeat the top three seeds on its way to the semifinals. This is the first ever meeting between Wichita State and Lipscomb, as the Bison look for their second win against an AAC squad after topping SMU as 10-point underdogs in November.
Texas vs. TCU (-1 ½, 138) – 9:30 PM EST – ESPN
The Big 12 has three teams going to the Final Four, all from the Lone Star State. Technically, Texas Tech is heading to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, while Texas and TCU have to settle for meeting in Madison Square Garden in the NIT semifinals. There is plenty of pride on the line between these two state and conference rivals as the Horned Frogs (23-13 SU, 18-18 ATS) pulled off the season sweep of the Longhorns (19-16 SU, 16-19 ATS).
TCU has captured five of the past six matchups in the series dating back to 2017 as both victories this season finished UNDER the total. These teams first met on January 23 in Fort Worth as the Horned Frogs slipped past the Longhorns, 65-61 to barely cash as three-point favorites. Both teams struggled from the floor by shooting less than 41%, while Desmond Bane led TCU with 17 points. The Horned Frogs grabbed the sweep in Austin in the regular season finale, 69-56 as seven-point underdogs, as Bane went off for 34 points on 14-of-20 shooting from the floor, while the Longhorns shot just 37%.
The Horned Frogs hoisted the NIT championship in 2017, capped off by a blowout of Georgia Tech in the title game. TCU was one-and-done in the NCAA tournament last season after losing to Syracuse in the first round, but got off to a 12-1 start this season with the lone defeat coming to Lipscomb at home. However, the Horned Frogs lost their first five road Big 12 games, while suffering 1-6 run towards the end of the season prior to the victory at Texas on March 9.
Texas jumped out to a 5-0 start, including a neutral-site upset of North Carolina in Las Vegas as nine-point underdogs in November. However, the Longhorns fell the next day to Michigan State in that same tournament, which began a three-game losing skid which included losses to Radford and VCU at home. Shaka Smart’s team leaped out to a 2-0 record in Big 12 play, as the Longhorns won at eventual conference champion Kansas State in the opener.
The ‘Horns lost five of next six games after the 2-0 start, including a 10-point setback in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge to Georgia, who finished near the bottom of the league. There were several highlight wins at home, including victories over Kansas, Baylor, and Iowa State in Austin, but Texas picked up only one road win after beating K-State which came at last-place West Virginia in early February.
Both Texas and TCU reached the NIT semifinals by going 3-0 at home in their first three tournament contests. The Longhorns squeezed by South Dakota State in the opening round, 79-73 as eight-point favorites in spite of jumping out to a 19-0 lead. Texas held off Xavier in the second round, 78-76 in overtime, but once again couldn’t cash as four-point chalk. Leading scorer Kerwin Roach II, who missed the final four regular season games due to a suspension, paced Texas with 21 points, only the fourth game he has topped the 20-point mark this season.
Texas captured a win in its final home game of the season by blasting former conference rival Colorado, 68-55 as five-point favorites. Although the final margin was 13 points, the Longhorns built a commanding 44-19 halftime lead to reach their first NIT semifinals since 1978, the year they claimed their only NIT championship.
TCU is the only top seed remaining as it won all three of its NIT games by double-digits at home. The first victim was state counterpart Sam Houston State in an 82-69 triumph as 12-point favorites, followed up by an 88-72 rout of Nebraska as 4 ½-point chalk in the second round. TCU rallied past Creighton in the third round, 71-58 by outscoring the Bluejays, 41-25 in the second half as Kouat Noi led the Horned Frogs with 25 points. The Horned Frogs started the season at 5-0 ATS away from Fort Worth, but have covered only three of their last 11 games on the highway.
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]
Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.