College Basketball NIT Championship Betting Picks: #4 George Washington Colonials vs #1 Valparaiso Crusaders

2016 NIT Championship
#4 George Washington Colonials vs #1 Valparaiso Crusaders
Madison Square Garden – New York City, New York
Thursday, March 31, 2016, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Valparaiso -2
Current Line: Valparaiso -2 1/2
Opening Total: 135
Current Total: 133
Opening Money Line: Valpo -125 / GWU +105
Current Money Line: Valpo -140 / GWU +120

America East Tournament Preview
Valparaiso is a 2.5 point favorite against George Washington in the NIT Championship Thursday.

Before this season, neither the George Washington Colonials or Valparaiso Crusaders had made it past the second round of the NIT tournament. However, now the 27-10 Colonials and 30-6 Crusaders will meet for the Championship Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. This is the first ever meeting between George Washington and Valparaiso.

George Washington is coached by Mike Lonergan. The Colonials were in third place in the Atlantic 10 behind four other teams at 11-7. George Washington beat Saint Louis in the second round of the A-10 but lost to St. Joseph’s 86-80 in the quarterfinals. GWU beat #5 Hofstra 82-80 in the first round at home, and then beat #1 Monmouth 87-71 in the second round on the road. The Colonials beat #2 seed Florida 82-77 in Washington, DC. The Gators had to travel despite being the higher seed because their home arena was being renovated. In the semifinals Tuesday also in New York, GWU dominated #2 San Diego State 65-46.

GWU has a neutral site loss to Cincinnati in Brooklyn, plus road losses to DePaul, Saint Louis, Dayton, St. Bonaventure, and Davidson. The Colonials have home losses to Richmond, St. Joseph’s and VCU. George Washington has a neutral site win over Tennessee in Brooklyn, plus road wins at South Florida, Central Florida, Massachusetts, George Mason, VCU, Duquesne, and Richmond. The Colonials have home wins over Lafayette, Virginia, Seton Hall, Penn State, Rutgers, Fordham, Duquesne, Rhode Island, Davidson, LaSalle and George Mason. GWU is 17-16-1 ATS and the total is 18-16 this season. The Colonials were 3 point underdogs against San Diego State and the total was 132.5.

Valparaiso is coached by Bryce Drew. The Crusaders won the Horizon League regular season title with a 16-2 record, but were upset by Green Bay 99-92 in the semifinals of the Horizon tournament. Valparaiso wasn’t selected to the NCAA Tournament and was given a #1 seed in the NIT. The Crusaders beat #8 seed Texas Southern 84-73 in the first round and #4 seed Florida State 81-69 in the second round. Valparaiso beat #2 seed St. Mary’s 60-44 in the quarterfinals last Tuesday. All three games were at home for the Crusaders. In the semifinals Tuesday, the Crusaders beat BYU 72-70 also in New York. Valparaiso led by 14 at halftime and held off a furious Cougar rally to win by two points. Valpo is in their third NIT and has never made it past the first round before this season.

Valparaiso has road losses at Oregon, Ball State, Belmont, and to Wright State twice. The Crusaders have home wins over IPFW, Iona, Belmont, Missouri State, Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Oakland. Valpo has road wins at Rhode Island, Oregon State, Indiana State, Oakland, Green Bay and Milwaukee. Valparaiso is 17-15-1 ATS and the total is 16-17 this season. The Crusaders were 2.5 point favorites against BYU and the total was 149.

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GWU is outscoring teams 76-69 this season. The Colonials are shooting 44.6% from the field and 37% from three point range. GWU makes 75.5% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 43.3% from the field and 33.8% from three point range. The Colonials average 37.9 rebounds per game and opponents average 29.6 per game. GWU averages 14.1 assists, 11.5 turnovers, 6.1 steals and 3.3 blocks per game. Opponents average 11.6 assists, 11.9 turnovers, 6 steals and 3.4 blocks per game.

Tyler Cavanaugh averages 16.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Patricio Garino averages 14.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Kevin Larsen averages 12.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.7 rebounds per game. Joe McDonald averages 8.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Yuta Watanabe averages 8.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Alex Mitola and Paul Jorgensen will also get minutes in the rotation.

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Valparaiso is outscoring teams 76-63 this season. The Crusaders are #9 in points allowed nationally. Valpo is shooting 44.4% from the field and 36.3% from three point range. The Crusaders make 72.7% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 38.4% from the field and 32.9% from the field. The Crusaders are #3 nationally in field goal defense. Valpo averages 41.6 rebounds per game and opponents average 28.1 per game. The Crusaders are #14 or better in both categories. Valparaiso averages 14.1 assists, 12.7 turnovers, 6.8 steals and 4.6 blocks per game. Opponents averages 10.5 points, 13 turnovers, 5.6 steals and 3.5 blocks per game.

Alec Peters averages 18.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. Keith Carter averages 10.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Tevonn Walker averages 9.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. Shane Hammink averages 9 points, 3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. Darien Walker averages 8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. Four other players will get time in the rotation.

GWU is 4-1 ATS in non-conference games and 2-9 after allowing less than 50 points.

Valpo is 5-2 ATS in neutral site games, 2-5 overall, 3-8 after a straight up win and against teams with winning records.

Both of these teams are playing really good defense in the tournament. Lower seeded teams are just 5-25 so far in the NIT. For that reason I will take George Washington to pull off the minor upset.

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