As the NIT descends on Las Vegas Tuesday night, three of the four teams hitting the floor are mid-majors. Two of them are from Conference USA in North Texas and UAB. The other is Utah Valley out of the WAC.
In the first contest, North Texas will take on Wisconsin from the Big Ten.
The Mean Green reached this stage with a 65-59 overtime win at Oklahoma State. UNT led by seven at halftime by limiting the Cowboys to 1-for-11 shooting from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes.
Moulaye Sissoko notched his first career double-double with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 15 rebounds. Tylor Perry led the way offensively with a game-high 23 points and pulled down five boards.
Earlier in the tournament, the Mean Green knocked off Sam Houston State by 20 in the second round and Alcorn State by 16 in the first round.
The three wins this tournament brought head coach Grant McCasland’s postseason win total to 10. Prior to him taking over, the program had never won a postseason game.
The second semifinal will pit UAB against Utah Valley.
UAB secured its spot in Vegas by beating Vanderbilt 67-59 on the road. The Blazers were led by a big second half in which they outscored the Commodores 43-32. They shot a hair under 50% in the period.
Jordan “Jelly” Walker led the big second half as he scored 19 of his game-high 21 points after the break. He also pulled down seven rebounds and dished out seven assists. Trey Jemison notched a 17-point, 12-rebound double-double. Eric Gaines added 14 off the bench.
In the first two rounds, UAB earned two home wins. It topped Morehead State by 16 in the second round and Southern Miss by 28 in the first round.
Utah Valley punched its ticket to the NIT Final Four with a 74-68 win over Cincinnati. The Wolverines led by six at the half thanks to shooting 51.7% in the first half.
Four players were in double figures. Trey Woodbury and Justin Harmon scored 17 points apiece. Aziz Bandaogo tallied a double-double with 15 points and 12 boards. Tim Fuller just missed his own double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds.
The Wolverines pulled off a pair of road victories in the first two rounds. They won at Colorado by 12 in the second round and knocked off New Mexico by 14 at the Pit in the opening round.
Harmon is averaging 22.3 points and 5.0 rebounds during this NIT run.
The three wins this year are the program’s first victories in the NIT. Its 28 wins are also a program record.
The Wisconsin-North Texas game is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Utah Valley-UAB game is set to follow at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.