Big Ten representative Wisconsin Badgers meets Conference USA (C-USA) rep UAB Blazers at 6:00 pm, followed by Western Athletic Conference invite Utah Valley Wolverines meeting C-USA runner-up UAB Blazers at 9:30 pm.
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Wisconsin Badgers vs. North Texas Mean Green
Wisconsin is a +1.5 underdog with a 115.5 total when the two sides open the NIT semifinals at 7:00 pm and televised on ESPN.
Phil’s Best Bet: North Texas -117 Betfred
Las Vegas basketball fans are in for a Tuesday night treat with this opening game, and my best bet is North Texas -125.
- This tilt features the two slowest tempo teams in the nation, and scoring buckets will be at a premium–North Texas is 1st in points allowed while Wisconsin ranks 31st in points allowed.
- North Texas was the top free-throw shooting team in C-USA and top-five in most offensive categories except their conference’s worst turnover rate.
- North Texas has better shooting percentages and is a better offensive rebounding than Wisconsin, but the Badgers have a distinct height advantage.
- Wisconsin finished at or near the bottom of every offensive category in the Big Ten, except they were 1st in turnover percentage.
North Texas has the edge in nearly every statistical category and should win this game. The Mean Green have been good this season–they are 5-2 on neutral courts and have defeated three consecutive top 40 Kenneth Pomeroy teams, and they should be able to outscore the Badgers.
Wisconsin has played the stronger overall schedule but is 2-4 against Pomeroy-ranked teams under 33. Look for the Mean Green to win what should be a defensive battle.
Utah Valley Wolverines vs. UAB Blazers
Utah Valley is a +3 underdog with a 151.5 total when they meet UAB at 9:30 pm, televised on ESPN.
Our NIT nightcap should be much closer than the oddsmakers suggest, and my best bet is Utah Valley +3.
Phil’s Best Bet: Utah Valley +3 -110 Betfred
- Both teams like to play fast-paced offensive basketball–UAB ranks 10th in scoring, and Utah Valley is 52nd in points scored per game.
- Utah Valley had the top-ranked defense in the Western Athletic Conference and was 1st in efficiency, effective field goal percentage, opponent two and three-point shooting, and blocked shot percentage.
- UAB played league-average defense but excelled on the offensive end of the court. The Blazers were 2nd in several offensive conferences in C-USA but were 10th in two-point shooting percentage.
- The Wolverines were in the top 3rd in most offensive categories in their conference but 5th in turnover percentage.
- Utah Valley was 2-2 this season on neutral courts–UAB was 4-2 on a level playing field.
Utah Valley may not win this game, but they should be able to cover the +3. The Wolverines have the offense to score with the Blazers and the defense to keep the high-flying UAB offense from running the Wolverines out of Orleans Arena. UAB relies too heavily on the triple, and they may not be as effective from downtown on a neutral court against a solid 3-point shooting Wolverines defense.