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Pre-season NIT semifinals tip off in Madison Square Garden

by Rick Dimon | November 25th, 2008

Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners deprived the Madison Square Garden faithful of a chance to see Davidson star Stephen Curry. But the fans, at least, will get to see another Pre-season First-Team All-American in Griffin, himself. The semifinals of the Pre-season NIT tip off in New York on the day before Thanksgiving, pitting Boston College against Purdue and UAB against Oklahoma.

Boston College vs. (9) Purdue

Boston College Golden Eagles (3-1)

Best Win: vs. St. John’s (neutral site), 82-70

Worst Loss: (only loss) at St. Louis, 53-50

After two successful seasons in Atlantic Coast Conference play, the Eagles are looking to bounce back from a 2007-08 campaign in which they went 4-12 in the ACC and 14-17 overall. The good news is they did not lose much, and senior Tyrese Rice (who has seemingly been in college for no less than 13 years) is one of the most explosive point guards in the college basketball business. Veteran coach Al Skinner has several underclassman guards that should be able to step up and give Rice some support, but questions in the low post remain.

Purdue Boilermakers (4-0)

Best Win: vs. Detroit, 82-50

Worst Loss: none

It’s always a good situation when you do not lose a single starter from a team that went to the NCAA Tournament the previous year, not to mention to the second round of said tournament. Such is the situation for head coach Matt Painter and his experienced Purdue squad. The Boilermakers are well-rounder with Keaton Grant at point guard, shooting guard Chris Kramer as the reigning Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year, and E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel pouring in points. A stud big man would help, but even without one, Purdue could be the cream of the crop in its conference this season.

Prediction

Rice probably needs to go off for the Eagles to have any real chance in this one. Maybe not to the extent that he did in the first half against North Carolina, but he has to be borderline on fire to keep his team close. That might happen for a while, but other than Rice, this is all about experience versus youth. The Boilermakers should pull away in the second half and cruise in relatively comfortable fashion

Purdue 75, Boston College 62

UAB vs. (13) Oklahoma

UAB Blazers (4-0)

Best Win: at Arizona, 72-71

Worst Loss: none

Coming off a 23-win season, the Blazers are expected to challenge 2008 National Runner-up Memphis for the Conference-USA title. Coach Mike Davis enters his third season at UAB and his star shooting guard, Robert Vaden, is back for a senior campaign after toying with ideas of the NBA. Vaden is joined in the backcourt by Georgia transfer Channing Toney and Paul Delaney III, both fifth-year seniors. The Blazers are not big or deep, but—as always—they are athletic. “We want to take advantage of our strengths, which are speed, quickness and our perimeter players,” Davis explains.

Oklahoma Sooners (4-0)

Best Win: vs. Davidson, 82-78

Worst Loss: none

The Sooners finished tied for fourth in the Big 12 last season, but they should be right near the top—if not at the top—in coach Jeff Capel’s second season as head man. Capel returned Blake Griffin and Blake’s brother Taylor, and welcomed heralded recruit Willie Warren into the mix. Oklahoma can score from anywhere and it already looks like the team has the potential to be dominant inside. The key could be senior point guard Austin Johnson. If—and it’s a relatively big “if”—Johnson can run the offense on a consistent, mistake-free basis, the Sooners will have few holes and will be very tough to beat.

Prediction

Any kind of weakness in the frontcourt is far from ideal heading into a matchup with Oklahoma. The Griffin boys could dominate on the both ends of the floor, so UAB will have to keep pace by applying pressure defense and scoring off turnovers. Look for the Blazers to keep it close for at least a half, but Oklahoma’s physicality will wear down the underdogs in the end.

Oklahoma 79, UAB 68

Championship: (13) Oklahoma vs. (9) Purdue

What a Big 12-Big 10 battle this would be. Blake Griffin would be able to do his damage down low, but overall, Purdue has the most experienced and balanced group of the four NIT semifinalists.

Prediction: Purdue 69, Oklahoma 66

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6 Responses to “Pre-season NIT semifinals tip off in Madison Square Garden”  

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  1. John Says:

    @ Rick. I agree on your pick about Purdue over BC. Rice is terrific, but Purdue is balanced, deep, and stingy defensively. This will be the Boilermakers coming out party for those that don’t already know how good they are. I disagree with your second pick. I think UAB will let Blake Griffin have his 25-30 points and try to take away everyone else. They’ll pressure Austin Johnson and force him into at least 6 turnovers. They also will have a stretch where they get hot from 3 point land. Look for Robert Vaden to have his comin out party tonight(25 points at least.)

    Predictions:
    Purdue 66, Boston College 55
    UAB 77, Oklahoma 70

    Championship Game: Purdue will have to score in bunches, which is not somethin they are used to doing. This is still a relatively young team. I think this will be a fabulous game. Vaden and Hummel battle for almost 3 hours, but in the end UAB presses their way to the title.

    Prediction:
    UAB 85, Purdue 84 Final-2OT

    And not to worry. Curry and the rest of the Wildcats will be at MSG for the Jimmy V Classic against West Virginia. Seeing as how big of a Davidson fan you are, that should be a real treat for you to watch.

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  2. Ricky Dimon Says:

    well, I’m looking good so far

    Let’s be honest, you can’t come much closer than that with analysis / score predictions!

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  3. John Says:

    @ Rick um you can at least put @ John. However, I said 77-70………just picked the wrong team. Got the Purdue pick right. You got the score closer than me, though.

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  4. John Says:

    Um, does anyone here find it strange that Oklahoma out-shot Purdue 46-5 at the free throw line?

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  5. Andrew Force Says:

    @John.

    It is a disturbing statistic.

    But lets look at the two teams’ post players. Blake Griffin who is shaped like Shrek and JaJuan Johnson who is shaped like a windshield whiper.

    Purdue never feeds the post. Oklahoma always does. Clearly Oklahoma is going to draw more fouls. The penetration of Purdue should have earned more foul calls. I will grant you that.

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  6. Butch Says:

    John, Purdue lives behind the 3-point line so that’s why there was such a difference.

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