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NIT Championship Preview: Valparaiso and George Washington Tangle in MSG

We're in for a good one tonight in Madison Square Garden!

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Just tuning into the NIT for the first time tonight? Well, you're in for a treat as two of the most fun teams among the mid-major ranks will clash in Madison Square Garden tonight. We've got you covered with all the angles on this evening's championship match up.

When: 7 PM
TV: ESPN
Line: Valpo -2.5
O/U: 133

Their Stories

Valparaiso Crusaders (30-6)

Bryce Drew and his Crusaders have been one of our mid-major darlings all season long. They closed last season ranked ninth in our Mid-Major Power 15 Rankings and opened this seasons ranked seventh.  Valpo climbed all the way to the top of rankings on multiple occasions this year and started their season by going 10-3 in non-conference play with solid wins over Oregon State, Iona, and Rhode Island. The Crusaders went 16-2 in conference play, losing to Wright State twice, and earning the Horizon League title and a double bye.  Valpo was then upended in their first game of the league tournament to eventual champion Green Bay.

Valpo was then one of those teams seemingly snubbed from the NCAA Tournament and since then have taken down Texas Southern, Florida State, St. Mary's, and BYU in the NIT.

George Washington Colonials (27-10)

George Washington was one of the most frustrating to follow this year as they went up and down in the Atlantic 10. Mike Lonergan's Colonials had the conference's most impressive non-conference win over Virginia but then went 11-7 in conference play with an inexplicable loss to Saint Louis along the way.  The boys from Foggy Bottom battled Saint Joseph's in the A10 Tournament but fell to the eventual champs 86-80.

Despite losing three out of their last five games to close the traditional season, the Colonials have gotten hot at the right time taking down Hofstra, Monmouth, Florida, and San Diego State to get to tonight's matchup in Madison Square Garden.

Who to Watch

Alec Peters, 6'9, JR

Peters is putting together quite the career at Valpo.  So far this year the big man has averaged 18.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. He's up his game in the postseason this year to average over 24 points per night.  Peters is fun to watch because he has one of the nation's top defensive players right beside him in Vashil Fernandez.  Both will have their hands full tonight with Kevin Larsen and others patrolling the paint for the Colonials.

Patricio Garino, 6'6, SR

While Tyler Cavanaugh has been in beast mode lately for GW, you have to keep an eye on Patricio Garino tonight.  I may shed some tears tonight since this is Garino's last game for the buff and blue. The smooth Argentinian has been a joy to watch over the past year and has developed into the A10's most well-rounded player. Garino averaged 14.1 points and 4.3 rebounds this year and has eclipsed 1,500 career points for the Colonials.

Prediction

I'm going to ride with George Washington tonight 70-66. GW seems to be all-in, and the senior class of Garino, Larsen, Joe McDonald, and Alex Mitola seem to be going after this championship HARD! This should be a great game tonight; it's meaningful for both teams, and each school would love to bring a banner back to campus.