NIT Championship Game
#4 Wichita St Shockers vs #1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Thursday, March 31, 2011, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Opening Line: Wichita St -1 1/2
Current Line: Wichita St -2
Opening Total: 129
Current Total: 128 1/2
Money Line: Wichita St -135/ Alabama +115
Either Alabama or Wichita St will win their first ever NIT Championship Thursday night in New York City. Alabama did play in the championship game in 2001 but Wichita St has never played for the title. Alabama leads the overall series 2-1 against Wichita St but the two teams haven’t played since 1997.
Alabama is 25-11 on the season and won the SEC West title with a 12-4 record. That would normally be enough to get them a bid to the NCAA tournament, but a lack of quality non-conference wins sent them to the NIT. The Tide got to the title game with wins over Coastal Carolina 68-44 in the first round, 74-67 over New Mexico in the second round, 79-64 over Miami in the quarterfinals, and escaped with a 62-61 victory over Colorado in the semifinals. Alabama was up 40-30 in the second half, but Colorado came back to take a 57-52 lead with 6 minutes to play. Alabama forward JaMychal Green was the leading scorer for the Tide with 22 points, but he fouled out with 2 minutes to go. Trevor Releford hit the game winning shot with just seconds remaining, and Colorado guard Alec Burk missed a 15 footer as time expired to seal the victory for the Crimson Tide.
Wichita St is 28-8 overall and finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 14-4 record. They lost to Indiana St in the MVC semifinals and were seeded 4th in one of the NIT brackets. They have wins over Nebraska 76-49 in the first round, at Virginia Tech 79-76 in overtime in the second round, at home against Charleston 82-75 in the quarterfinals, and crushed Washington St 75-44 in the semifinals. Center Garrett Stutz led the Shockers in scoring with 24 points and 11 rebounds off the bench in the rout. Even more impressive, was the Shockers’ defense, holding Washington St superstar Klay Thompson to 6 points on 1 for 10 shooting from the field. Thompson had averaged just under 27 points a game in his last 4 games.
As Mentioned Alabama leads the overall series against Wichita St 2-1. Alabama has made to the NIT semifinals 6 times in history and Wichita St has made the semis 5 times in history. Wichita St is 13-4 ATS in all tournament games the last 3 seasons. Alabama is 0-7 ATS in non-conference road/neutral site games this season.
Wichita St has no significant injuries right now. The Shockers are led by forward/center J.T. Durley, who is averaging 11.2 points to lead the team, 5 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. Guard David Kyles averages 9.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists a game. Guard Toure’ Murry averages 9.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.2 steals a game. He leads the team in assists and steals. Center Stutz is averaging 7.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1 assist a game. Forward Gabe Blair leads the Shockers in rebounds with 6.5 a game and blocks with 0.9 a game. WSU is outscoring opponents 73-62 on the year. The Shockers shoot 46.8% from the field and 35.2% from 3-point range. Shocker opponents are shooting 40.9% from the field. Wichita shoots 74.5% from the free throw line. The Shockers average 37.6 rebounds and have a rebounding margin of +8.4. They average 15.5 assists and 12.3 turnovers a game. The Shockers force 12.1 turnovers a game on defense. Wichita averages 5.8 steals and 3.8 blocks a game.
Alabama guard Kendall Durant is out indefinitely with a foot injury. He has been out since December 11. Alabama guard Andrew Steele is out with a concussion. Forward Jason Carter is also questionable for an undisclosed reason and missed the last game for the Tide. He plays only 6 minutes a game anyway. None of them scores that many points for the Tide, so the losses aren’t that important. Alabama is led by forward JaMychal Green. He is averaging 15.6 points , 7.6 rebounds to lead the team, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.1 blocks a game to lead the team. Forward Tony Mitchell averages 15.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.6 steals to lead the team, and 1.1 blocks a game. Guard Trevor Releford averages 11.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists to lead the team, and 1.6 steals a game to tie for the team lead. Guard Charvez Davis averages 8.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists a game. Alabama is outscoring opponents 67-59 on the season, The Tide are shooting 45.2% from the field and 30.2% from 3-point range. Alabama holds opponents to 38.3% shooting from the field. The Crimson Tide make 70.3% from the free throw line. Alabama grabs 36.4 rebounds a game and has a rebounding margin of +3. The Tide averages 12.4 assists and 14 turnovers a game. They force 15.6 turnovers a game on defense. The Tide averages 9.4 steals and 5.1 blocks a game.
Wichita St is building a reputation as a giant killer especially during this tournament. The Shockers have wins over Virginia, LSU, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, and Washington St this season. However, they haven’t played a team that plays defense as well as Alabama. The Crimson Tide only give up 59 points a game. Wichita St has been playing good defense as well giving up only 61 points a game in the 4 NIT games. Points should be at a premium as both teams play a physical defensive style. I think Alabama will win a close game.
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