In the back corner of the March Madness party sits the NIT – National Invitation Tournament. It’s the Garfunkel of the college hoops’ postseason, a second-tier tournament that offers a diluted shot at glory to those programs not good enough for the NCAA tournament.
Some teams jump at the chance to extend their season while others, especially those who had their bubbles burst on Selection Sunday, couldn’t give two craps about the NIT. Bettors can find serious value fading these half-hearted programs when the NIT kicks off Tuesday.
Northeastern Huskies (20-12 SU, 14-13-0 ATS)
Northeastern entered the CAA tournament with high expectations, coming off its first regular season title. But poor starts plagued the Huskies in the conference tournament and cost them a NCAA bid with a loss to James Madison in the final. Northeastern really believed this was its year, especially after VCU left for the Atlantic 10. Now, the Huskies travel to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama as 12.5-point underdogs.
Stanford Cardinal (18-14 SU, 13-16-1 ATS)
You’ll forgive the Cardinal if they don’t seem all that excited about hosting the opening-round game of the NIT. Stanford has been there and done that, having won last year’s National Invitation Tournament. It could become just the third program to win back-to-back NIT titles, but that’s about as motivating as getting a sucker after a visit to the dentist. After balancing school and hoops and more school, the Cardinal might be disinterested with No. 5 Stephen F. Austin (+8.5) Tuesday.
Baylor Bears (18-14 SU, 13-14-0 ATS)
Baylor put all it had into a late-season NCAA push. The Bears fought to the finish in the Big 12, taking a win over KU in the season finale and nearly knocking off Oklahoma State in the conference tournament. The NIT is a sour taste for Scott Drew’s troops. Baylor has put together some deep NCAA runs in recent years and now is left to host Long Beach State, which played UNC, USC, Arizona, Syracuse, Ohio State and UCLA in non-conference play. Books have Baylor as a 13.5-point favorite in Waco.
Kentucky Wildcats (21-11 SU, 11-18-0 ATS)
I’m sure when John Calipari pitched playing at Kentucky to his star recruits, the word “NIT” didn’t come up once. Not only are the Wildcats prime for a letdown, with their young talent more focused on the upcoming NBA Draft, but the No. 1 seed won’t even have home-court advantage in its opening game with Robert Morris. Since Rupp Arena is being used for the NCAA, they will be traveling to Pittsburgh. Books have set Kentucky as a slight 5.5-point road favorite in what should be a rocking Charles L. Sewall Center Tuesday.