NIT semifinal games played at Madison Square Garden, New York, New York.
Georgia Tech has embraced the challenge of the NIT and played its way to Madison Square Garden in New York for a semifinal matchup with WAC regular-season champion Cal State Bakersfield on Tuesday night. The Yellow Jackets, who came up a few wins short of an NCAA Tournament bid, beat higher seeds Indiana and Ole Miss on the way to their first NIT semifinal since 1971 when they lost to North Carolina in the championship game.
“People didn’t expect a whole lot from this team going into the season, so this is a great statement saying that we’re a great team,” Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers told reporters. “Hopefully, we can continue out this season on a win streak and continue it on to next season.”
Freshman guard Josh Okogie is averaging 21.7 points in the tournament on 53.7 percent shooting from the field for the Yellow Jackets, who have recorded 61 assists on 80 made field goals in the last three games. Bakersfield lost to New Mexico State in the WAC final before winning three straight on the road as an eighth seed en route to New York, including an impressive 73-66 triumph at top seed California, and stands one victory from a possible championship game appearance against either TCU or Central Florida on Thursday.
“They told us we were the eight seed in the beginning, but I knew we had a good basketball team,” Roadrunners coach Rod Barnes told reporters. “We’re still in the stage where we have to earn people’s respect. … I think our team actually thrives off of that.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
LINE MOVEMENT: Georgia Tech opened -2.5 and has since been bet down to -2. The total opened 122.5 and has climed to 123 points.
ABOUT CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD (25-9): The Roadrunners, who reached the Division I NCAA Tournament for the first time in 2016, are 30-for-59 from 3-point range in their first NIT after shooting 33.5 percent from behind the arc during the opening 31 games. Junior guard Shon Briggs has stepped up in the tournament, averaging 17 points to push his season mark to 7.4, while senior guard Dedrick Basile has chipped in with 16.3 to go along with four assists. Senior guard Jaylin Airington (14.4) is the team’s leading scorer overall and sophomore backcourt mate Damiyne Durham (12.8) is next after averaging 14.3 in the NIT.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (20-15): The Yellow Jackets have put 20-win seasons back-to-back for the first time since 2003-04 and 2004-05 after allowing just 62 points per contest and shooting 48.8 percent from the field in the NIT. Okogie has led the way while Lammers contributed 15 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks (eight against Ole Miss in the quarterfinals) in the last three games – making 15-of-20 shots the past two. Senior forward Quinton Stephens has raised his production in the NIT, averaging 16.3 points to go along with eight rebounds in the three games, to improve his overall numbers to 10.5 and 7.7, respectively.
* Roadrunners are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games as underdogs.
* Yellow Jackets are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games as favorites.
* Under is 10-4 in Roadrunners’ last 14 neutral site games.
* Under is 5-1 in Yellow Jackets’ last six neutral site games.
CONSENSUS: 75 percent of bets are on Georgia Tech while 70 percent of totals bets are on the Over.
TCU Horned Frogs vs. Central Florida Knights (+2.5, 32)
TCU coach Jamie Dixon has plenty of experience on the sidelines at Madison Square Garden, something he hopes can help his Horned Frogs when they take on Central Florida in the semifinals of the NIT on Tuesday in New York. “We’ve done this a lot, been to New York a bunch,” Dixon – who coached 41 games at the arena while at Pittsburgh – told reporters. “It’s a special place in March. There’s no other place I’d rather be.”
Dixon’s fourth-seeded crew earned the trip to its first ever NIT semifinal with an 86-68 win over Richmond last week and it has won five of six since ending the regular season with seven consecutive losses. Junior guard Kenrich Williams recorded the first triple-double in TCU history with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in the win over the Spiders, and he is averaging 14.2 points and 10.2 boards in six postseason games.
The Knights, also seeded fourth, have survived three close affairs to reach the semis, including a 68-58 win at home over Illinois. Sophomore guard B.J. Taylor scored 17 points and one of the nation’s top defenses limited the Fighting Illini to 30.6 percent from the field.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
LINE HISTORY: Texas Christian opened as a 2.5-point favorite and has remained steady. The total opened 131.5 and is up to 132 points.
ABOUT TCU (22-15): Junior forward Vladimir Brodziansky scored 20 points versus Richmond after recording 19 in an overtime win at Iowa in the previous round. Sophomore guard Alex Robinson ranks second to Brodziansky in scoring with an 11.4 average and he is posting seven assists per game since the regular season came to a close. Guard Desmond Bane has consecutive 13-point games to help pick up the slack from when fellow freshman Jaylen Fisher was lost for the season to a wrist injury in the opening round against Fresno State.
ABOUT UCF (24-11): One-time Duke star and former Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins has led the Knights this far in his first season at the helm, one that began with few expectations for a program that was expected to be rebuilding. “Our belief has been in these players from Day 1,” Dawkins told the media. “I think, as we started to play and started to gain some momentum, I think they started realizing what we can accomplish, and they kept working.” Taylor leads the way with 17.6 points per game while senior guard Matt Williams (15.1) is a steady contributor and 7-6 sophomore Tacko Fall (11.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.5 blocks) is a force in the paint, although he has scored in double figures just three times in the last 11 contests.
* Horned Frogs are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 neutral-site games.
* Knights are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 neutral-site games.
* Under is 5-1 in Knights last 6 games following a ATS win.
* Over is 5-2 in Horned Frogs last seven non-conference games.
CONSENSUS: 61 percent of bets are on TCU while 64 percent of totals bets are on the Over.