Trust us, we would all forgive you if you didn't watch any basketball tonight. Since the action hasn't stopped since about 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, the possibility of hoops overload is real.
But we can ask that you try to stick it out. After all, the marathon ends at midnight (even if we will be asking you to go off-script to find out games).
The NIT Season Tip-Off continues with second round action, and most of our mid-major squads will be playing in the consolation bracket. That includes North Texas, who should be seeing Kansas State across the way, but instead will face Lamar.
We will keep you updated on all the action, but there are two games on which you should focus your attention:
1. Delaware at Virginia: Delaware survived against Penn despite the second straight game of disappointing guard play. The kicker is that now is when they will need that guard play the most. Virginia has proven vulnerable in the backcourt because of injuries to its guards (The loss to George Mason hinting at it; Fairfield's hot shooting in the 1st half last night cementing it). They have little depth at the position right now, and if Delaware can finally get the games it expects from Jarvis Threatt and Devon Saddler, the Blue Hens will be headed to New York City. The two have scored but have done it while shooting worse than 35 percent from the field. That percentage will need to be a lot higher tonight if Delaware is to get it done. Key Matchup: Saddler and Threatt against Virginia's Joe Harris and Evan Nolte. The two Blue Hens guards have to outperform on the outside for this game to go their way.
2. Lehigh at Pittsburgh: This all comes down to C.J. McCollum and how well he can attack the Pittsburgh defense. While Mackey McKnight has now had flashes of brilliance in two games, he isn't going to provide a lot of relief for the Lehigh star. It would also help if Gabe Knutson isn't hobbling around on the floor as he comes back from injury. This won't be another mid-major on the other bench. This is a Pittsburgh team built to work inside with Steven Adams clogging the middle. As with the game against Baylor, a longer team has the real ability to frustrate the Mountain Hawks without a similar presence. Which means... Key Matchup: Can Knutson provide enough support inside for Lehigh against the bigger Pittsburgh lineup. We know that McCollum can hold his own, but he will need help in order to bring this one home, Getting that help in the paint will go a long way toward giving the Mountain Hawks a shot.
If that is not enough for you, you might want to check out these last few games:
3. George Mason at Bucknell: The Patriots will still be missing Erik Copes, which should prove the difference here. Mike Muscala could dominate inside against the smaller George Mason lineup. With Cameron Ayers also looking good in the opener against Purdue, the Bison will have a strong all-around lineup. Key Matchup: Will Johnny Williams and Marko Gujanicic be enough to stop Muscala? He should score 25 given the lack of depth inside for the Patriots.
4. Wichita State at Virginia Commonwealth: Let's be clear: the opener for the Shockers didn't do much to show how strong the team really was. The level of competition provided by North Carolina Central was laughable. So tonight, Wichita State will instead get the team that left mid-major dominance behind. Theoretically these teams should be evenly matched, with Ken Pomeroy giving the Shockers a 26 percent chance to pull the upset on the road. Key Matchup: Will the Wichita State defense force enough turnovers from the Rams? The guards are actually the most vulnerable spot on VCU, and it will take Malcolm Armstead and Ron Baker to force the issue. The inside game can help here, but this one will be won in the backcourt.
5. Tennessee State at South Dakota State: Robert Covington didn't do much to help his expected draft stock during the opener against BYU. The Tennessee State star was just 2-for-12 from the floor and had trouble against the strong inside presence of the Cougars. There should be no such trouble tonight, but if he is going to be the focal point, he will have to outwork Nate Wolters from the Jackrabbits. Wolters almost stole a win from Alabama. Against a lesser defense, there is a good chance he will really light up the scoreboard (40?, 50?!?). Key Matchup: Stopping Wolters in any way possible will be the key to victory for Tennessee State. Let's say keeping him under 20 would go a long way toward a win.