Friday, November 19, 2010

NIT Season Tip-Off -- A Post Pod Look

The Field Sorts Out...
The four NIT pod sites completed their two round elimination games Monday through Wednesday (11/15-11/17), with the four teams that logged 2-0 records in the pod rounds advancing to New York City to settle matters on the floor of Madison Square Garden. The end of pod play does not, however spell the end of the tournament for the 12 teams that will not advance to New York. For those teams, the field has been reorganized, three teams were selected to host a second set of games and the remaining nine teams were assigned to the three pod sites. The redrawn field (Pod hosts listed first, other alphabetized) is:

New York City (NIT Champ)Conf. Winston-Salem, NCConf.
TennesseeSEC #2 Wake ForestACC #3
UCLAPac-10 #4 BelmontAtl. Sun
VillanovaBig East #1 MaristMAAC
Virginia CommonwealthCAA #5 WinthropBig South
Washington DCConf. Springfield, MOConf.
George WashingtonA-10 #7 Missouri StateMVC #6
Boston UniversityAm. East Arkansas StateSun Belt
HamptonMEAC PacificBig West
NevadaWAC #8 PepperdineWCC

For all but New York City (the Championship bracket), the pod host is the first team listed under the pod location. The first eight teams were seeded by the NIT before the first pod. The original seed is listed for those teams after their conference affiliation. All pods except New York City are "consolation pods", so the rounds will not be single elimination, but rather two games scheduled against two of the other pod members. That explains why every pod has (at least) one pair of teams from the previous pod assignment. Those "paired teams" are not scheduled to play each other. Each team in the tournament, win or lose, is guaranteed four "unique" opponents.

What We Learned From the Pods
1. This is a "real tournament", even if it was seeded...strangely. Though designated a pod host and given a #3 seed in the field (of 16), Wake Forest still had to earn it's ticket to New York City and the Championship Bracket. And that the Demon Deacons could not do, as Virginia Commonwealth beat them by a convincing 21 points, 90-69 on Tuesday (11/17) and swiped the Deacons' ticket to Madison Square Garden. That could not have been fun for the Wake faithful. (Too) Many of the early season invitationals grant their pod hosts a pass to the "Championship Bracket" irrespective of whether they win their pod outright.
2. Nevada is officially rebuilding. The 2010 edition of the Wolfpack is gone and the perennial WAC powerhouse is something of a paper tiger, as the Pacific Tigers, followed by the Pepperdine Waves demonstrated on successive nights in West pod action. Pepperdine, which beat Nevada by a point, 76-75, won seven games (total) in 2010, and is projected to finish last in the West Coast Conference again this season. Nevada will play their consolation games in Washington DC.
3. George Washington will really miss Lasan Kromah. Announced on the eve of pod play, the sophomore guard and All A-10 Rookie Team player is out indefinitely with a sprained left foot. The Colonials dropped a nine point decision to Boston University (76-67), but blew Marist off the floor (79-59) the next night. A long recuperation period by the sophomore scorer is going to force Coach Karl Hobbs to lean on the other returning players (Tony Taylor, Joseph Katuka, Andre Ware, Jabari Edwards) to pick up a larger share of the offense. Projected (preseason) to finish around the middle of the Atlantic-10 Conference, a recuperation that stretches into conference play could really hurt the Colonials' chances to build on the progress last season.
4. Tennessee had a strong pod or really has some work to do. Probably both. The Volunteers dealt themselves Belmont (of the Atlantic Sun Conference) as their first round opponent, and managed a nine point win despite leading by only one, 77-76, with 0:36 left. The Vols scored the last eight points at the line, as the Bruins, who hit 7-22 from beyond the arc up to that point, missed a pair of three point attempts (and a two point attempt), could not rebound those misses and had to fall back on possession fouls to regain the ball. Against their second round opponent, Missouri State of the MVC, Tennessee managed to carry the day by four points. The game was a tug-of-war for the lead though the Vols pushed the bulge out to double digits once -- for some two minutes -- in the first half. The Bears took their last lead, 36-33, about five minutes into the second half, and though they could only hold it for a single possession, they were not, through the end of the game, more than two possessions away from a tie or lead. Maybe Tennessee's Bruce Pearl was distracted with other matters.

The Schedules...
The consolation pods will play out on Monday and Tuesday (11/22 & 11/23) of next week. The Championship Bracket is scheduled for Madison Square Garden. On Wednesday (11/24) the semi-finals will be played at 7:00 pm (Virginia Commonwealth vs Tennessee) and 9:00 pm (UCLA vs Villanova). The finals (and third place game) are scheduled for Friday, 2:00 pm (Third Place) and 5:00 pm (Championship).

What We Anticipate
From a log5 and offensive/defensive efficiencies perspective, it Wake's woes may not be over. And the same could be said for Tennessee. The Springfield Consolation Bracket could well be the strongest of the three consolation brackets, as two experienced West Coast teams tangle with two heartland squads in what might be a Bracket Buster Tournament in November. I will post break downs for each consolation bracket, along with the Championship Bracket later this weekend.

Further Reading...
The Official NIT Tip Off Site
The Consolation Brackets with sites, teams, dates and game times. Home team bolded.

No comments: