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Wednesday's NIT Quarterfinals: What bettors need to know

Iowa Hawkeyes at Virginia Cavaliers (-4, 123)

Virginia found itself on the doorstep of playing in Madison Square Garden at the start of the season, but a surprising setback dashed its hopes. The Cavaliers haven’t lost at home since and can guarantee themselves a visit to the “world’s most famous arena” as well as a spot in the National Invitation Tournament’s Final Four in New York next week with another such victory on Wednesday over Iowa. Virginia missed its first chance at playing at MSG on Nov. 13 when it suffered its lone home loss on Nov. 13 to Delaware in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament.

Virginia has since rolled off 19 consecutive victories at John Paul Jones Arena, including double-digit wins over Norfolk State and St. John’s in its first two games in this event. The Hawkeyes, who have won nine of their last 12 contests, represent the final hurdle for the Cavaliers. Iowa has been every bit as impressive in the first two rounds of the NIT, registering a pair of double-digit home wins over Indiana State and Stony Brook.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

ABOUT IOWA (23-12, 22-9-0 ATS):
One of the most important factors in the Hawkeyes’ finish has been the strong play of leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble (14.8 points). Marble missed one contest and averaged a mere 7.3 points in the seven subsequent games following an ankle sprain during practice on Jan. 7, but is averaging 18.3 since. In the team’s NIT victories, Marble is averaging 26 points, 5.5 assists and one turnover. "He is making plays and not turning the ball over," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery told the team’s website. "He's very unselfish and scoring a lot more. It seems to be having a comforting effect as everyone around him feels good (when he has) the ball.”

ABOUT VIRGINIA (23-11, 18-12-1 ATS):
First-year players combined to score 46 of the Cavaliers’ 68 points in Sunday’s victory over St. John’s. Both Justin Anderson (18) and fellow freshman Taylor Barnette (13) secured career-high point totals – necessary performances considering leading scorer Joe Harris was held to seven points, 9.4 below his season average. “I thought the first-years really gave us a lift and played very good basketball. That was pivotal in this game,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told the team's website. Junior Akil Mitchell grabbed nine rebounds against the Red Storm to give him 305 for the season, marking only the eighth time a Cavalier has reached the 300-rebound mark.

TRENDS:

* Hawkeyes are 0-4 ATS in their last four vs. Atlantic Coast.
* Cavaliers are 6-2 ATS in their last eight vs. Big Ten.
* Under is 7-3 in Hawkeyes' last 10 overall.

TIP-INS:

1. Iowa ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring (70.4 points) while Virginia possesses the fourth-best scoring defense in the country (55).

2. The Cavaliers’ 20 home wins is a single-season school record.

3. The winner of this contest will meet either Alabama or Maryland in the NIT semifinals.

BYU Cougars at Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (-5.5, 151)

Brigham Young has bounced back nicely from a shocking 72-69 loss to San Diego in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference tournament with impressive back-to-back home wins over Washington (90-79) and Mercer (90-71). The Cougars, playing in their 11th National Invitation Tournament, improved to 14-8 all-time in that tourney with Monday night's win over the Bears. BYU won the NIT in both 1951 and 1966 but is making its first appearance in the event since 2006.

Southern Mississippi, the top seed in its portion of the bracket, is playing in its ninth NIT and won the event in 1987. The Golden Eagles, who have won five of their last six games, defeated Charleston Southern (78-71) and Louisiana Tech (63-52) in the first two rounds in Hattiesburg, Miss., increasing their school-record home win streak in non-conference games to 30. Southern Miss is 4-1 all-time in NIT home games and is 53-6 at Reed Green Coliseum since 2009. The winner will face Baylor or Providence in the semifinals in New York City on April 2.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPNU

ABOUT BRIGHAM YOUNG (23-11, 15-17-1 ATS):
The Cougars have been looking to redeem themselves following their early exit in the WCC tourney and seemed to have found their shooting touch in the process, scoring 90 points in back-to-back games. "The disappointment of the conference tournament was real to our players," BYU coach Dave Rose told the Deseret News. "They really feel excited about this opportunity to continue to play, and not finish with the note we had there. It's good to see. They're playing with a lot of togetherness." Guard Tyler Haws, who scored a school NIT record 37 points in the opening win over Washington, leads the team in scoring (21.5) and has connected on 38.5 percent of his 3-point tries while 6-9 senior Brandon Davies, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds against Mercer, is averaging 18 points and 7.9 rebounds. Sophomore guard Matt Carlino, who began his career at UCLA, has been a big offensive key in the first two NIT games averaging 19 points, nine assists and 6.5 rebounds.

ABOUT SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (27-9, 16-16-1 ATS): The Golden Eagles, unlike BYU, won't blow teams away with their offensive stats but make up for it on the defensive end. Southern Miss averages 9.8 steals per game - which ranks fourth in the nation - and, despite not having a starter taller than 6-7, led Conference USA in rebounding margin (plus-5.8). The Golden Eagles, who outrebounded 26 opponents this season, finished with a 44-22 edge in points in the paint in Monday night's win over Louisiana Tech and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds. "They were tremendous defensively," Louisiana Tech coach Michael White said. "Their zone was terrific. They did a good job of limiting our penetration." Senior forward Dwayne Davis (16.3) and junior guard Jerrold Brooks (10.8) are the only players to score in double figures for well-balanced Southern Miss, which has six players averaging 8.4 points or more.

TRENDS:

* Cougars are 4-12 ATS in their last 16 road games.
* Golden Eagles are 4-11-1 ATS in their last 16 games overall.
* Over is 25-9-1 in Golden Eagles last 35 overall.

TIP-INS:

1. Haws, who has scored 20 or more points in 23 games this season, now has 1,127 career points and is one of two sophomores in school history to reach 1,000 points in a career. The other was Danny Ainge.

2. Carlino has connected on 9-of-18 3-point attempts in the NIT, many from well beyond the arc.

3. Southern Miss PG Neil Watson broke the school single-season record with 63 steals this season, topping the old mark of 59 set by Casey Fisher in 1985-86.

Providence Friars at Baylor Bears (-9, 147)

Two of the top backcourt players still remaining in the NIT will try to push their teams through to the semifinals when second-seeded Baylor hosts No. 4 Providence on Wednesday. Baylor senior point guard Pierre Jackson averages 19.7 points and 6.7 assists. He put up 26 points and a career-high 16 assists in Friday’s 89-86 win against visiting Arizona State. Providence junior Bryce Cotton does less ball-handling than Jackson but just as much scoring, averaging 19.6 points. Cotton is averaging 22.5 points through the first two games of the tournament.

The player responsible for distributing the ball for Providence is senior point guard Vincent Council, who is averaging 10 points and seven assists. He’s also coming off a double-double in the second round, finishing with 12 points and 10 assists in a 77-68 win Monday against visiting Robert Morris. The four-year starter is shooting 33.6 percent, however, the lowest mark of his career.

TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2.

ABOUT PROVIDENCE (19-14, 16-12-1 ATS):
The Friars need to find a way to slow the high-scoring Bears and a good start would be winning the rebounding battle. Providence is ranked 38th in the nation in rebounding (37.8) and Baylor is 41st (37.7). Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton are the key figures in the middle for the Friars. Batts, a 6-10 junior forward, averages 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds and Henton, a 6-6 sophomore forward, is averaging 13.4 points and 8.3 rebounds. Both players struggled with foul trouble in the win against Robert Morris, so keeping them on the floor will be vital for Providence.

ABOUT BAYLOR (20-14, 14-15-0 ATS): The Bears will counter down low with 7-1 freshman center Isaiah Austin and 6-9 junior forward Cory Jefferson. Like Batts and Henton, they lead their team in rebounding while also ranking second and third in scoring. Austin is averaging 13.2 points and 8.5 rebounds, while Jefferson comes in at 12.4 points and 8.2 rebounds. Austin has shown signs of having heavy legs, however. He has recorded double digits in rebounding once in the last 11 games after hitting that mark 12 times in his first 21. Jefferson has been an offensive roll lately, shooting 30-for-41 in the last four games.

TRENDS:

* Friars are 0-5 ATS in their last five vs. Big 12.
* Over is 4-1 in Bears' last five non-conference games.
* Over is 15-7 in Friars' last 22 overall.

TIP-INS:

1. Baylor will be trying to win at least three postseason games for the fourth time in the last five seasons. The Bears advanced to the NIT finals in 2009 and the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012, losing to the eventual champion each time.

2. Providence is ranked 260th out of 292 teams in 3-point shooting (31.3). The only player for the Friars shooting better than 30 percent from beyond the arc is Cotton (36.8).

3. The winner will play top-seeded Southern Mississippi or third-seeded BYU in the semifinals April 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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