2014 NIT Preview: No 1. SMU vs No. 8 UC Irvine

The Mustangs and the Anteaters are both looking for redemption in the NIT. Who will come out on top?

First Round NIT:

No. 1 SMU (23-9) vs No. 8 UC Irvine (23-11)

9:00 PM EST

What to watch for: Southern Methodist

SMU was supposedly "snubbed" from the NCAA tournament.  However, with bad losses to South Florida and Temple during mid-season plus an early exit out of the Big East Tournament, the Mustangs should be excited to have a top seed in the NIT.

This team ranks 16th in the nation in field goal percentage (48.7%), despite their relatively low scoring offense (71.2 PPG).  This means that the Mustangs love to take their time and pass around to get the open shot.

Nic Moore may be leading scorer for the Mustangs, but Markus Kennedy is the real danger.  The forward makes 54.6% of his field goals, to average 12.1 PPG and 6.9 RPG.  If you really want to hurt SMU, foul them and send them to the line.  The Mustangs ranked 225th in the nation in free throw percentage, on average getting to the line 23 times per game, yet only making 16.  This does not bode well if it comes down to closing out a game.

What to watch for: UC Irvine

This was supposed to be the Anteaters' year.  They were picked pre-season to finish first in the Big West and had done so in conference play.  Then the unthinkable happened: Cal Poly first upset UC Santa Barbara, then shocked UC Irvine, beating them in the semi-finals of the Big West Tournament.

If SMU is a great field goal shooting team despite not many attempts, then UC Irvine is a fantastic assist team.  All the Anteaters have to do is get the ball to their big men Will Davis II and Mamadou Ndiaye and let the easy scores come.

Ndiaye may be the 7'6" giant on the team, but it is Luke Nelson who has shown the most offensive productivity for the Anteaters.  The English freshman is averaging 11.7 PPG, and that's after a sluggish spell that has hit him recently (only 8.4 PPG the last five games).  Will Davis II has also been on an offensive tear lately, averaging 16.0 PPG over the last four games.

Prediction

This game has SMU at a 9.5 point favorite over the Anteaters right now (O/U set at 126.5) and really, this is only because SMU comes from the American Athletic Conference.  Both teams are very similar in style of play, points scored and points allowed.  It might be the closest No. 1 vs No. 8 match-up there is, and for this reason, I'm going to pick the Anteaters in the upset.  SMU is good in the paint, but the Anteaters rank 6th in the nation in blocks thanks to Ndiaye and Davis II, and very few people can drive against this team (just ask Alan Williams!).  Expect a low-scoring game that comes down to the last possession.

UC Irvine 68, SMU 67

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Mid-Major Madness

You must be a member of Mid-Major Madness to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Mid-Major Madness. You should read them.

Join Mid-Major Madness

You must be a member of Mid-Major Madness to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Mid-Major Madness. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker