Featured Video from Scott Reichel
Welcome to the Big Apple from this native New Yorker right here, as the NIT Final Four has arrived to the Empire State to decide a champion over the next 3 days.
The first of 2 semifinal games will tip-off on Tuesday, April 2 at 7 p.m. ET, on the corner of 33rd and 7th at the iconic arena known simply as MSG. Nah, let’s call it The Mecca, Madison Square Garden in the heart of mid-town New York, and the rest is always history on the line with trophies, banners, and parties to ensue. When the final horn sounds in Thursday night’s NIT finale, 1 of these 2 programs will be there to stake their claim for a championship, so let’s break it down!
Wichita State and Lipscomb, who started their NIT affairs as 6 and 5 seeds respectively, both had to go 3 – 0 on the road to land their spots in this year’s NIT Final Four, although the Shockers did become the first program to take out the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st-ranked teams in one tournament.
If you are one who thought that this secondary tournament to the NCAA big show had no meaning, you might want to go catch the Wichita State celebration in the locker room after they took out Indiana in Bloomington! The janitorial staff is probably still in the visitors clubhouse cleaning up the Gatorade bath that Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall got when he returned from doing interviews. One word.. Classic!
While it’s obvious Wichita State is happy to be here in the City that never sleeps, the Lipscomb Bison have bullied their way to 3 wins away from home to likely be listening to the Cinderella label a time or two. This program got to their first NCAA Tournament a year ago, and 28 wins sure looks good for head coach Casey Alexander.
The Big Apple Welcomes The Shockers For The NIT Semifinals
If you didn’t catch the celebration for Wichita State in that Indiana locker room after their big win over the Hoosiers, it was just epic watching head coach Gregg Marshall walk into the visitors dressing room and just get doused with Gatorade, as anyone in that room was bouncing and showing us why the NIT is certainly a big event.
— Wichita State MBB (@GoShockersMBB) March 31, 2019
It’s cool to see that tweet knowing it all so well myself, and this trip is all about business, but it’s hard to not have some fun in this environment too.
It was pretty amazing to watch this program go on to beat the top-3 seeds in the NIT to become the first to pull it off, and you can tell this team wants to get this trophy.
What a job coach Marshall has done here in Kansas, while the other more well-known Universities from this State have all the attention he has only gotten Wichita State to 10 consecutive post-season appearances. Oh, by the way, one of those campaigns finished with a trip to NY in 2011, which landed the Shockers an NIT Championship.
While 22 wins may seem like a down season after the few 30-win seasons lately, an NIT title would certainly make up for not reaching the big show after 7 straight showings at the NCAAs. Marshall also got this program to the NCAA Final Four in 2013 and the Sweet 16 in 2015, so this is nothing new around campus.
The Shockers got past Furman 76 – 70 in their opening round game in the NIT, which were followed up with wins over Clemson and Indiana on the road to land this spot in this year’s NIT Final Four.
Senior forward Markis McDuffie also doesn’t want to leave the court just yet, as he has 57 points from his 3 games and took in 21 points against Indiana in the quarters. McDuffie leads this squad in scoring and has put up double-digits in 14 of his last 15 games. He only fell short of the 10-point mark 3 times all season long and scoops up 5 boards a contest as well.
Senior guard Samajae Haynes found 13 & 6 against Indiana in the QFs and he had a 10 & 10 showing against Clemson to help lift them past the Tigers in the second-round game, which was only his 2nd double-double of the entire year.
Jamie Echenique picked up 11 rebounds against Indiana and put up 16 points and 10 boards in the win over Furman, as he only has found 3 double-doubles this season.
MSG Welcomes The Bison For Their NIT Semifinal Affair
The Bison haven’t seen the bright lights of New York City during the season yet, although a trip to Newark when they faced NJIT.. Uh no, sorry, not even close, and let’s just say this is a far cry from some regular season game in January for this program that has one participation banner hanging in their ceiling from last year’s NCAA Tournament appearance.
That history-making season last year produced 23 wins for head coach Casey Alexander, who now has 3 straight 20+-win campaigns under his belt. This is Alexander’s 6th season with the Bison, and it took a while to get here, make no mistake.
After only 2 season’s with records under .500 at Stetson, Lipscomb took a flyer on the head coach and the first 3 campaigns only produced one season at .500 and two years under the mark before these 3 consecutive 20-win seasons.
So, we can only assume what it would mean to not just settle for another participation banner that says NIT Final Four on it. A piece of hardware, history, and more to build towards next season with two wins in New York is what’s at stake here.
The Bison started their trek to NYC with an 89 – 81 road win over Davidson, but no one knew that it would be the beginning of what was about to be a killer run for senior Garrison Mathews over the next 3 games.
Quietly and innocently enough, Mathews landed 14 points in the Davidson opener, and that led to a 21 point effort in the 86 – 69 win over UNC Greensboro in the second -round. What comes next?
Oh, hmm let’s see what Mr. Mathews did to ensure his team landed at JFK Airport and took a bus to Hotel Pennsylvania across the street from the venue. Ahh yeah, how’s a career-high 44 point effort with 8 boards and 3 assists to go along with a pair of steals workin’ out for ya? Boom, now that’s how you make sure your final game isn’t a loss.
Mathews has a run of 25 straight double-digit outings coming into the NIT Final Four, and averages over 20 PPG this season.
— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisWSMV) March 31, 2019
Rob Marberry had scored 41 points in the first two games in the event, although he was held to only 8 points in the win over N.C State that landed this team here in New York.
A wild 94 – 93 game came down to the final shot in another Wolf Pack game this year, and the Bison’s Kenny Cooper put up the game-winning shot with only 4 seconds left to play in the game. Cooper was the only other player besides Mathews to land double-digits, as his 11th and 12th point were the difference in the win that left N.C State home and out of the event.
• Bison are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 games as a favorite.
• Shockers are 13-3-1 ATS in their last 17 games overall.
• Shockers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games.
• Shockers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Scott needs material for the Winners & Whiners YouTube Channel, so let’s provide everyone with a little play, with a little line, on a little team from Kansas to escape with a victory.
A spot in the NIT Finals is in the balance, and coach Marshall knows exactly what he is doing in these situations. Experience is a big one in favor of Lipscomb, but let’s not lose track of how good this Bison team is too.
Someone just has to win and someone goes home, and unfortunately I see the Bison’s run coming to an end with the Shockers moving on to face the winner of the TCU vs. Texas affair that will come after this game ends.
Wichita State +1
Prediction: Wichita State +1
Full-Game Total Pick
No sir! I do not see a game where someone reaches 80, and that means 150-something won’t happen either. I mean it could, but I still see a 75 – 65 Wichita State win which puts us at 140, obviously.
Play it accordingly, and I hope to see you for the second game which I am covering as well here at Statsalt.
Prediction: Under 150.5