College Baasketball NIT Championship Game: #1 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs #1 SMU Mustangs

2014 NIT Championship Game
Madison Square Garden – New York City, New York

#1 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs #1 Southern Methodist Mustangs
Thursday, April 3, 2014, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: SMU -3
Current Line: SMU -3
Opening Total: 134
Current Total: 131 1/2
Opening Money Line: SMU -150 / Minnesota +130
Current Money Line: SMU -150 / Minnesota +130

Minnesota is a 3 point underdog against SMU in the NIT Championship game Thursday.
Minnesota is a 3 point underdog against SMU in the NIT Championship game Thursday.

The 27-9 Southern Methodist Mustangs look to win the NIT for the first time in program history as they take on the 24-13 Minnesota Golden Gophers in Thursday’s Championship game at Madison Square Garden. Minnesota won the NIT in 1993 and 1998. The Golden Gophers were the runner-up in the 2012 NIT.

SMU leads the series 6-3 against Minnesota. However, all 9 games were played between 1954 and 1963. This is the first neutral site game in the series.

Minnesota was 7th in the Big Ten with an 8-10 record. The Golden Gophers lost to Wisconsin 83-57 in the Big Ten quarterfinals. It was the only loss for Minnesota in the past 6 games. Minnesota was given one of the four #1 seeds in the NIT. The Gophers beat #8 seed High Point 88-81 in the first round, #4 St. Mary’s (CA) 63-55 in the second round, and #3 Southern Miss 81-73 in the quarterfinals In Tuesday’s semifinal, Minnesota beat #1 seed Florida State 67-64 in overtime to advance to the championship game for the second time in 3 seasons.

SMU went 12-6 in the American Athletic Conference, and were part of a three way tie for third. The Mustangs were upset by Houston 68-64 in the AAC quarterfinals. SMU lost three straight games heading into the NIT, which likely kept them out of the Big Dance. They were given the #1 overall seed in the NIT. The Mustangs beat #8 seed UC-Irvine 68-54 in the first round and then beat #5 LSU 80-67 in the second round. SMU then beat #2 seed California 67-65 in the quarterfinals. The Mustangs beat #3 seed Clemson 65-59 in the semifinals.

Minnesota is coached by Richard Pitino. The Golden Gophers have losses to Syracuse and Arkansas in the Maui Invitational, Michigan twice, at Michigan State, at Iowa, at Nebraska, Northwestern, at Purdue, Wisconsin twice, Illinois, and at Ohio State. Minnesota has key wins at home over Lehigh, Montana, Florida State, South Dakota State, at Richmond, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Penn State 3 times, at Northwestern, and Iowa. Minnesota is 16-15-1 ATS and the total is 14-16-1 this season.

Minnesota is outscoring teams 72-68 this season. The Golden Gophers are shooting 44.8% from the field and 35.1% from 3 point range. Minnesota is #22 nationally in free throw shooting at 74.9% from the line. Gopher opponents are shooting 42.5% from the field and 34.6% from 3 point range. Minnesota averages 34 rebounds per game and opponents average 30.1. The Golden Gophers average 14 assists, 11.6 turnovers, 7.6 steals and 4.2 blocks per game. Opponents average 12.9 assists, 12.2 turnovers, 6 steals, and 4.2 blocks per game.

Minnesota guard Andre Hollins averages 13.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1 steal per game. Guard Austin Hollins (not related to Andre) averages 12.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.2 steals per game.  Guard Deandre Mathieu averages 11.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Forward Maurice Walker averages 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Guard Malik Smith averages 7.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists. Forward Joey King averages 7.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Forward Oto Osenieks (from Latvia) averages 5.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. He is out for the season with a knee injury. Center Elliott Eliason averages 5.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. He is questionable with an ankle injury.

SMU is coached by Larry Brown. SMU has losses at Arkansas, Virginia in tournament in Corpus Christi, TX, at Cincinnati, at Louisville twice, at South Florida, at Temple, at Memphis, and Houston. SMU has key wins over TCU, Rhode Island,  Texas A&M in Corpus Christi, at Wyoming, UConn twice, South Florida, Central Florida twice, Hofstra, Rutgers twice, Houston twice, Memphis, Temple, and Cincinnati. SMU is 20-12 ATS and the total is 12-19 this season.

SMU is outscoring teams 72-62 this season. The Mustangs are #22 in points allowed nationally. SMU is shooting 48.5% from the field and 38.3% from 3 point range. The Mustangs are #18 nationally in field goal percentage and #42 in 3 point shooting. SMU makes 67.9% of their free throws. Mustang opponents are shooting 37.9% from the field and 31.9% from 3 point range. SMU is #4 in field goal defense and #55 in three point defense nationally. The Mustangs average 36.2 rebounds per game and opponents average 29.6. SMU averages 15.5 assists, 13.9 turnovers, 7.6 steals and 4.6 blocks per game. Opponents average 10.8 assists, 14.3 turnovers, 7.9 steals and 3.5 blocks per game.

Guard Nic Moore averages 13.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Forward Markus Kennedy averages 12 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. Guard Nick Russell averages 9.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Center Yanick Moreira averages 8.1 points and 5.1 rebounds. He is out for the season with a knee injury. Forward Ben Moore averages 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Keith Frazier, Shawn Williams, Cannen Cunningham, Ryan Manuel, and  Sterling Brown also get significant time in the rotation.

Minnesota is 4-1 ATS in Thursday games, and after a straight up win, 5-2 overall, and 2-5 in neutral site games.

SMU 5-1 ATS in non-conference games, 12-4 after a straight up win, 11-4 after a cover, and against teams with winning records, 16-7 overall, 2-6-1 in Thursday games, and 6-22-1 in neutral site games.

Both Minnesota and SMU quickly got over the disappointment of not being selected for the NCAA Tournament. Now, each has a chance to win the NIT which is still prestigious. Many teams have used winning the NIT as a springboard for the next season. I think SMU finds a way to win their first NIT Championship in a close game.

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