The NIT’s opening night turned out to be a bonanza for the mid-majors.
Nine games were scheduled, though the “wintry” mess on the East coast postponed the city of Greensboro v. Jim Boeheim, which will be played Wednesday night. Seven of the eight games that were played featured mid-majors, which won five of those games. Here’s what went down.
The bracket can be viewed here.
(7) Oakland 74, (2) Clemson 69
Leaving Clemson like.... pic.twitter.com/xw8BS4JWMr— Golden Grizzlies (@GoldenGrizzlies) March 15, 2017
The Tigers learned to never count their Kampe’s until they’ve hatched. The Golden Grizzlies trailed by 19 points at halftime, and 20 points with under 18 minutes to go in the second half. But a furious rally led by Martez Walker (23 points) and Sherron Dorsey-Walker (21 points) brought Oakland all the way back. The Golden Grizzlies, who had the Horizon League’s most efficient defense, held Clemson to just 26.7 percent from the field in the second half. Oakland will play at Richmond on Wednesday in the next round.
(8) CSU Bakersfield 73, (1) California 66
The Roadrunners took advantage of a depleted Cal team to get their first postseason win as a Division I program. The Golden Bears were without their two leading scorers, as Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird sat out with injuries. CSUB shell-shocked Cal, racing out to a 44-19 halftime lead behind 16 points from Dedrick Basile. As is usual with Rod Barnes’ team, it held Cal to just 0.93 points per possession and 31.4 percent on two-point field goals. The win extended the careers of Basile, Jaylin Airington and Matt Smith, three senios who have been instrumental in the program’s recent rise. CSUB plays at Colorado State on Thursday.
(2) Illinois 82, (7) Valparaiso 57
The Illini may have been playing without recently-fired coach John Groce, but Valpo was playing without injured star Alec Peters. That’s taking a knife to a gun fight, even if the other side is in turmoil. Its past two losses, which includes the opening round Horizon Tournament loss to Milwaukee, saw the Crusaders score their first- and third-lowest point totals of the season, respectively. Senior Shane Hammink (0 points, 0-3 FG) had a disappointing end to a solid two-year career at Valpo. The Crusaders finish the season at 24-9, and made their eighth-straight postseason appearance.
(6) Richmond 71, (3) Alabama 64
The Spiders used their typically-lean lineup to pick up a road win in Tuscaloosa. Richmond responded to a 7-0 Alabama run to start the second half (which gave the Tide a three-point lead) to get its first postseason win since winning two games in the 2015 NIT. Of the six players that saw significant minutes, all scored at least nine points, including 22 from senior ShawnDre’ Jones. He and fellow senior - and A10 POY - T.J. Cline will host Oakland on Thursday.
(4) Colorado State 81, (5) College of Charleston 74
The Rams were just the second team in College of Charleston’s last six games to score over a point per possession against its stout defense. This primarily due to a game-high 22 points from senior Gian Clavell. Sophomores Prentiss Nixon (19 points) and J.D. Paige (15 points) also had big nights that Larry Eustachy must hope spring board into next season. It was the program’s first postseason win since beating Missouri in the Round of 64 of the 2012-13 NCAA Tournament. The Rams host CSUB on Thursday.
(6) Boise State 73, (3) Utah 68
Boise State's win over Utah last night is third road win against a "Power Five" conference opponent in program history, first since 2003. pic.twitter.com/o7FuT9Zgjl— Boise State Men's BB (@BroncoSportsMBB) March 15, 2017
The Broncos came back from an 11-point second half deficit, holding a solid Utah offense below its averages on points scored per possession and effective field goal percentage. Boise State star Chandler Hutchison scored a career-high 34 points, and was one of just two Broncos in double figures. They would use a 16-1 late second half run to set up a game at Illinois on Thursday. In a small upset, senior Nick Duncan did not make a three pointer.
(5) Ole Miss 91, (4) Monmouth 82
The Rebels racked up 52 second half points to overcome a three-point Hawks’ halftime lead. Monmouth did rally with an 11-0 run midway through the second half to take another three-point lead, but could not hold on for its second NIT victory in as many years. Seniors Justin Robinson and Je’lon Hornbreak combined to score 41 points in their final college game.