NIT Season TIp-off Preview

NIT Season Tip-Off Preview: Duke & Arizona Headline the Field

11/18/13 in NCAABB   |   EdIsaacson   |   15 respect

The first 2 weeks of the college season are in the books, but now comes a 2-week period which many fans, and teams, look forward to – the early season Tournaments.

While many tournaments have gone to a format which guarantees that the “best” teams end up in the semifinals, the NIT Season Tip-off has stayed true to its elimination format.  Duke and Arizona dominate the names in this field, but it doesn’t mean that their road to the final will be all that easy.

Here is a quick preview of the tournament which starts tonight:
 
Nov 15, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jabari Parker (1) goes to the basket against Florida Atlantic Owls center Justin Raffington at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke won 97-64. Mandatory Credit: Ellen Ozier-USA TODAY SportsDuke

3 games in, there is plenty to be happy with if you are Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, but the team’s defense continues to be a concern.  Freshman Jabari Parker and sophomore Rodney Hood give the Blue Devils a frontcourt scoring duo on par with any team in the country. Point guards Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton have done a very good job distributing the ball, and Rasheed Sulaimon gives them a legitimate deep threat at the 2.

Key to Winning
Rebounding and defense are going to be the biggest key to Duke winning this tournament, especially if they come up against Arizona in the Championship.

Potential Road to Madison Square Garden
11/18 – vs. UNC Asheville, 11/19 vs. East Carolina/Norfolk State winner
 
Arizona

The Wildcats are coming off their first true test last Thursday on the road at San Diego State, a 69-60 victory. Junior Nick Johnson has been the team’s best all-around player, bringing consistent, and versatile, offense along with strong perimeter defense. Freshman Aaron Gordon has been a beast around the basket with his combination of strength and athleticism, as well as an improved perimeter game (4-5 from 3FG). Sophomore forward Brandon Ashley has looked much improved from last year, especially with his shot selection. Fellow soph Kaleb Tarczewski is looking more aggressive in the post this season, and junior transfer point guard TJ McConnell is starting to make his mark on the offense with his passing skills. Sophomore Gabe York is off to a good start this year, hitting 6 of 13 from 3 off the bench.

Key to Winning
Picking the right shots. Last week, after a strong start against San Diego State, the Wildcats started trying to force the action. McConnell needs to keep control of the offense and get the team into their offense and transition quickly.

Potential Road to Madison Square Garden
11/18- vs. Farleigh Dickinson, 11/19 vs. Rhode Island/Metro State winner
 
Alabama

The Crimson Tide bounced back from an opening day loss to Oklahoma with a win at home against Texas Tech. Trevor Releford has been sensational as a scorer so far, averaging 20.5 points on 65.2 % shooting, and almost 60% behind the arc. Sophomore guard Retin Obasohan has been a nice complement to Releford in the backcourt, and Levi Randolph and Algie Key have done a solid job attacking the basket. Rodney Cooper has been playing much bigger than 6’6, doing his best to help the Tide on the boards.

Key to Winning
Alabama has a total of 13 assists through 2 games, and that style of basketball is not going to fare well against potentially Duke in the semifinals. Releford is the team’s best scorer, but he is also their best playmaker. Somehow, he needs to balance both to make this team better.

Potential Road to Madison Square Garden
11/18- vs. Stillman College, 11/19 vs. Georgia State/McNeese State winner
 
Rutgers

After a nightmarish off-season, Rutgers and new coach Eddie Jordan have gotten off to a decent 2-1 start. The lone loss was on the road at Alabama-Birmingham by 3 points. The junior duo of Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack have been setting the scoring pace for the Scarlet Knights, though in different ways. Mack has been a beast around the basket and has been very efficient. Mack is a high-volume shooter, many of them not very good shots. Pitt transfer JJ Moore has brought the toughness that Pitt players are known for to this team, though he is still struggling to find his spot in the offense. Wally Judge gives some solid minutes, but finds few opportunities with Mack and Jack dominating the ball.

Key to Winning
If this Rutgers team wants to pick up some wins, especially against teams they aren’t expected to beat, the offense can’t be so reliant on Mack and Jack. Also, Mack needs to learn to be a real leader, and use his quickness to get others good looks. Those looks will likely be better than what he throws up out there.

Potential Road to Madison Square Garden
11/18- vs. Canisius, 11/19- vs. Elon/Drexel winner
 
Others to Watch

RJ Hunter, G, Georgia State – Sophomore Hunter is averaging 24 points per game early on in his 2nd year playing for his father. A potential NBA talent, Hunter is likely to become a bigger threat now that he has talented ex-Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow running the show for the Panthers.

The Drexel BackcourtChris Fouch, Franz Massenat, and Damion Lee would be a good backcourt for a high-major team. The perimeter shooting needs to get better, but if they get hot, the Dragons could find themselves playing at Madison Square Garden next week.
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