The NIT Season Tip-off consists of four teams and four games. The games will be played on Thursday, November 24th & Friday the 25th at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. The Tip-Off contains a very intriguing field in Temple, Florida State, Illinois, and West Virginia. None of these programs are considered the best of the best in college basketball but all of them can make some noise come March. This will be an exciting tournament to watch over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Game 1: Temple vs. Florida State
>(11/24; 12:30 P.M. ET; ESPNU)
Game 2: Illinois vs. West Virginia
>(11/24; 2:30 P.M. ET; ESPNU)
Game 3 (Consolation): Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
>(11/25; 12:30 P.M. ET; ESPNU)
Game 4 (Championship): Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
>(11/25; 3:00 P.M. ET; ESPN2)
>Daniel Dingle (R-Sr. Guard): Unless you are a Temple basketball fan, I guarantee you have never heard of this guy. In his junior campaign, Dingle averaged less than 5 points a game a year ago. So far he has exceeded anybody’s expectations for him this year. Dingle opened up the season scoring 22 points against a very good LaSalle team that many are predicting to finish top-5 in a loaded Atlantic-10 Conference. If Temple has any shot of beating Florida State, Dingle will need to have a huge game scoring and rebounding.
>Dwayne Bacon (So. Guard): FSU’s leading scorer from last year, Bacon, scored 22 points, 12 from 3-point land, in Florida State’s season opener against a solid Charleston Southern team. Bacon is a freak athlete with the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. His 6’7” size tends to create mismatches. Bacon is one of the most electrifying players in the country. Expect him to put up twenty in both of FSU’s games.
>Xavier Rathan-Mayes (Jr. Guard): Xavier Rathan-Mayes is one of the most underrated players in the country. He was FSU’s most consistent player his first two years on campus and he continues to do that at the start of this season. He is one of the most exciting guards to watch. Rathan-Mayes is an absolute sharpshooter and pure scorer. He scored 30 points in a span of 4 minutes against a top-25 Miami Hurricanes team last season. He has a great basketball IQ. He always seems to be making the right play.
>Malcolm Hill (Sr. Guard): Malcolm Hill has been the face of Illinois basketball the past two years. You can not mention Illini basketball without mentioning Hill. He has been U of I’s most reliable player for the longest time. He is only 6’6” but he rebounds like he is 6’10” and shoots like he is a point guard. He has a deadly jump shot and can score from anywhere on the floor. Earlier this season in a matchup with Northern Kentucky, Hill scored 40 points. Just to put that in perspective, Illinois, as a team, scored a total of 79 points that game. Illinois does as Malcolm Hill does. He will need to have a big game shooting the ball against a tenacious West Virginia press.
>Jalen Coleman-Lands (So. Guard): Jalen Coleman-Lands was one of the top players of the 2015 recruiting class. He played at high school powerhouse La Lumiere in LaPorte, Indiana. He is a future NBA draft prospect. Coleman-Lands is a high flying born athlete that has the ability to stroke it from downtown. His athleticism and length allow for him to be able to finish some crazy shots around the rim. However, in his first year at U of I, Coleman-Lands really did not show most of his athleticism. He was primarily known for his ability to shoot the 3-point ball. Against a West Virginia press that caused the second most turnovers per game in the nation last year, Coleman-Lands will have to use his athleticism and 3-point shooting ability to give Illinois a chance of an upset.
>Jevon Carter (Jr. Guard): Jevon Carter is coming off his best season at WVU. He was named to the all Big XII Defensive Team while averaging 10 points per contest. Carter Was first on West Virginia with 59 steals in a total of 35 games played. West Virginia is known for their relentless press which Carter is the anchor of. He does all the right things on the defensive side of the ball. He is always in the right position. Carter is everything a coach would want. He always makes the hustle plays. He does not have great size or length but he makes up for that with his quickness and vertical leaping ability.
First Round Game Previews and Prediction:
Temple vs. Florida State
>Florida State has too much talent for Temple to handle. Expect Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes to score 20+ points against a very average Temple defense. Temple also lacks consistent scoring which will hurt them significantly against a good FSU squad.
>Prediction: Florida State – 74, Temple – 65
Illinois vs. West Virginia
>Through the first 3 games of the season, West Virginia has five players scoring in double figures each contest. This balanced scoring attack combined with their unabating press will wear down Illinois. Malcolm Hill will have a solid game as usual, but Jalen Coleman-Lands will struggle which will hurt Illinois. This game will be close in the first half but WVU will slowly keep adding on to their lead and will win by a good amount.
>Prediction: West Virginia – 83, Illinois – 66
Championship Preview and Prediction:
Florida State vs. West Virginia
>Take a break from whatever holiday activity you might be doing and tune into this game. It will be an instant classic. It will be decided in the final few seconds. The experienced guard play of Bacon and Rathan-Mayes will be able to handle “Press” Virginia well but the balanced scoring attack of WVU is what will leave FSU feeling the agony of defeat. Watch out for WVU to make a deep tournament run in March.
>Prediction: West Virginia – 73, Florida State – 71
Everyone says that Thanksgiving is for football but that is not the case this year. The NIT Season Tip-Off is one of many great college basketball tournaments over Thanksgiving week. This year, Thanksgiving is for college basketball.