With the NCAA Tournament taking a break for a couple days, we have a prime opportunity to check in on the good ol’ National Invitation Tournament, which was in the spotlight Monday night.
Three teams worked their way into the NIT quarterfinals on Monday, including a pair-Louisiana Tech and Murray State-who delivered impressive performances on the road. Those two as well as Old Dominion won on Monday, and all three are now one win away from a trip to the semifinals of college basketball’s oldest Division I postseason tournament.
Louisiana Tech shot 51.7% in defeating Texas A&M 84-72 to advance to the NIT quarterfinals for the second straight year. Alex Hamilton scored 25 points and the Bulldogs hit 11 three-pointers, coming back from a first half deficit to take control in the final 20 minutes. Louisiana Tech will face Temple for the right to go to Madison Square Garden for the school’s second-ever trip to the NIT semis and its first since the year after Karl Malone left in 1986. The Bulldogs also will meet the Owls for the second time this year. Temple won the first matchup 82-75 way back on Nov. 17 in Philadelphia.
Also lighting it up on the road was Murray State, which hammered Tulsa 83-62 in the NIT second round. The Racers shot 14 of 25 from three-point range and have responded from their NCAA tourney snub exactly the right way, looking very formidable in the NIT so far. Murray State is in the NIT quarters for just the second time ever and first time since 1980, and is looking for its first-ever semifinal appearance.
The Racers will have to do it on the road one more time, as they will face Old Dominion in the quarterfinals with a trip to NYC on the line. The Monarchs were the one team to hold serve at home on Monday-barely. ODU defeated Illinois State 50-49 on Monday, as the Redbirds’ MiKyle McIntosh missed two free throws with 4.3 seconds left. The Monarchs avenged a loss to ISU in the Paradise Jam in November and now are looking for their first trip to the NIT semis since getting there in 2006.
(By the way: Hoopville’s Ray Floriani wrote a terrific book several years back about the history of the NIT, which you can find here or from other online sources)
- The CBI and CIT were busy as well. The semifinalists are set in the CBI after Monday’s quarterfinals. Vermont defeated Radford 78-71, Louisiana-Monroe came back from 20 points down to win at Mercer 71-69 and Loyola (Ill.) earned an 86-78 win over one-time Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) rival Oral Roberts. And you think these tournaments don’t matter to teams? Tell that to Seattle, which received a golden opportunity to host Colorado and took advantage of it, defeating the Buffaloes 72-65 before a sellout crowd at home at the (tiny) Connolly Center. The Redhawks will now go to Loyola for one semi, while UL-Monroe will host Vermont.
- New Jersey Tech continues to make a run in the CIT, as the Highlanders moved to the quarterfinals by defeating Cleveland State 80-77 when Ky Howard hit a three-pointer with 19.7 seconds left. Also advancing are Evansville-an 83-68 winner at Eastern Illinois-and Kent State, which won at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 69-65 in a back-and-forth game.
- Monday was another day with more coaches being let go. SE Missouri State announced on Monday the firing of Dickey Nutt after six years. Nutt had an 80-108 record in Cape Girardeau and went 13-17 this past season.
- Kennesaw State also announced a coaching change, as Jimmy Lallathin has been let go. Lallathin was given just one full year with the program after taking over midway through 2013-14 from Lewis Preston and being named to the head coach after the season. Lallathin’s record was 13-35, including 10-22 this year. Former Notre Dame All-American and Owls associate head coach David Rivers has been named the interim coach while a search is conducted.
- Multiple outlets are reporting that Ben Howland is set to be announced as Mississippi State’s coach on Tuesday. We’ll have more commentary on that Wednesday assuming it goes through. It’s an interesting location, as one might’ve thought Howland would’ve went somewhere in the west after his success as an assistant at UC Santa Barbara and as the head coach at Northern Arizona, but clearly he is ready to get back at it after two years away from coaching. You can continue to track all the coaching changes here.
- Former Syracuse swingman B.J. Johnson is transferring to La Salle, where he’ll be eligible in 2016-17 and have two years of eligibility remaining. Johnson averaged 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds this year for the Orange in limited minutes. He’s the son of Bobby Johnson, who played at La Salle and was a teammate of the legendary Lionel Simmons on the Explorers’ terrific teams from 1986-90.
- South Florida guard Anthony Collins and forward Dre’ Clayton are transferring, per ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on Monday. Collins started all 32 games this year and averaged 7.1 points and led the AAC with 5.2 assists per game.
- Virginia coach Tony Bennett was named the U.S. Basketball Writers Association national coach of the year on Monday. A deserving award for a coach who, with moderate resources, has built a terrific program with a distinct style in a shark tank of a conference. The Cavaliers finished 30-4 this year, going out of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday with a loss to Michigan State. Bennett also is the second coach to win the award at two different schools. He won the award at Washington State in 2006-07 and joins Roy Williams (Kansas in 1990, North Carolina in 2006) in that elite category.
- The NIT is the only tournament in action. Two teams will punch their tickets to New York and the NIT semifinals when Miami (Fla.) goes to Richmond and Vanderbilt is at Stanford.
Have a terrific Tuesday.