NIT Final Four Preview

NIT Final Four Preview

NIT Final Four

Bettors have a college basketball doubleheader on tap tonight at Madison Square Garden. A pair of SEC teams – Florida and Ole Miss – will be in action and a possible rematch between UF and Ohio St. looms in Thursday’s finals in the Big Apple.

Let’s take a look at both of tonight’s tilts.
   
**Massachusetts vs. Florida**

--Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened the Gators as three-point favorites with a total of 157. The opening line came out on March 26. Since then, most books have adjusted Florida (24-11 straight up, 14-12 against the spread) to a four-point ‘chalk,’ while the total has been bet down to 154.

--The Gators, who are trying to become the first school to ever win the NCAA and NIT championships in back-to-back seasons, have won their three NIT games by an average of 21.6 points per game. They won a pair of home games over San Diego St. and Creighton before going on the road to eliminate Arizona State.

--UMass (24-10 SU, 16-14 ATS) advanced to New York City thanks to its second win of the season over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. The Minutemen beat the Orange 107-100 earlier in the year. This time around, they trailed by 19 at intermission only to rally for an 81-77 victory as seven-point underdogs. Ricky Harris scored a game-high 23 points for Travis Ford’s team.

--Billy Donovan’s team came into the NIT on a four-game losing streak. Even worse, UF was in the midst of a 2-9 ATS slide. However, UF has easily covered the spread in all three NIT games, dealing out woodshed treatment to the Aztecs and Blue Jays before winning 70-57 at ASU as a 3 ½-point underdog.

--Florida is 5-4 ATS as a single-digit favorite. Meanwhile, UMass is 7-4 ATS as an underdog.

--The ‘under’ has cashed in all three of UF’s games in the NIT, as the Gators have held each foe to 57 points or less.

--The ‘under’ is on a 5-1 run for the Minutemen in their last six outings.

--Florida is back in the NIT Final Four for the first time since 1992 when Stacey Poole and Co. lost to a Virginia team led by Bryant Stith in the semifinals. The 1986 Gators led by the M&M Boys (Andrew Moten and Vernon Maxwell) also lost in the semis at MSG.

--ESPN2 will provide television coverage at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

**Ole Miss vs. Ohio State**

--LVSC opened Ohio State (22-13 SU, 16-14 ATS) as a three-point favorite with a total of 140. As of early this morning, most spots had the Buckeyes marked as two-point favorites.

--Ole Miss (24-10 SU, 14-15 ATS) has won six of its last seven games, posting a 5-2 spread record in the process. The lone loss for the Rebels during this stretch came on a buzzer-beating jumper by Georgia senior center Dave Bliss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

--Ohio St. has won five of its last six games, compiling a 4-1-1 spread record.

--The ‘over’ is on a 6-1 run for Ole Miss.

--These schools haven’t met since Dec. 23 of 1998 when Ohio St. won a 67-62 decision over the Rebels as a three-point home underdog.

--ESPN2 will have the telecast 30 minutes after the conclusion of UMass-UF.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--After striking out on Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel, South Carolina hired Western Kentucky’s Darrin Horn. My first thoughts on the hire? I’ll give the Gamecocks a B+.

--A search firm (Parker Executive Search) is now involved in the LSU head-coaching search. That makes me think that either the Tigers aren’t as interested in VCU’s Anthony Grant as many have anticipated or it’s the other way around. Other names linked to this job have been USC’s Tim Floyd and UMass’s Ford.

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Re: NIT Final Four Preview

David Huertas leads Mississippi into NIT semifinals
April 1, 2008

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -The deep furrows have disappeared from David Huertas' forehead and the weight of a season gone wrong has been removed from the Mississippi guard's shoulders.

The Rebels enter the NIT semifinals Tuesday night against Ohio State having won six of their past seven, in large part thanks to Huertas' emergence from a shooting slump that seemed to coincide with Ole Miss' struggles.

``I feel great right now because I've put so much time in the gym during the preseason working out, working on my game, and finally it's paying off in the season,'' Huertas said.

The 6-foot-5 Florida transfer has had a roller-coaster season.

In games where he struggled with his shooting, it would often affect other areas of his game. But as the Rebels (24-10) prepare for their final two games, Huertas has scored 15 or more points in five of Ole Miss' past seven games.

``He's emerged into the player that we were anticipating him being,'' Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.

Huertas averages 10.6 points and 25 minutes. He's played 31 or more minutes in the Rebels' past eight games and has averaged 16 points and nearly four 3-pointers over the past seven.

That improvement coincides with a string of six wins in seven games for Ole Miss. He scored 29 against Georgia in the SEC tournament and has made 50 percent of his 3-point shots during the Rebels' late run.

``David Huertas has been stepping up and everybody is doing a little bit more, and that's been the biggest difference,'' forward Dwayne Curtis said.

Kennedy says it's easy to see why the sophomore shooting guard struggled. Huertas, a native of Puerto Rico who played high school ball in Florida, missed 20 games his senior season due to injury.

At Florida, he played just a few minutes a game for the eventual national champion as a freshman during the 2005-06 season, then sat out last year after transferring.

He spent lots of time in the gym, but none with the seats filled and the game on the line.

``I probably underestimated the transition period it was going to take him because he had not played,'' Kennedy said.

Now opponents must honor Huertas' threat on the perimeter instead of leaving him to double-team Curtis or point guard Chris Warren.

If he can continue his hot streak at Madison Square Garden, it's likely the Rebels will, too.

``In the beginning I missed so many shots and I used to get so frustrated on myself, mad at myself because I know I go to the gym every day to work on my shot - after practice, before practice,'' Huertas said. ``Now it's paying off.''

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UMass (24-10, 16-14-1 ATS) vs. Florida (24-11, 14-12 ATS)

Two-time defending national champion Florida, on a different tournament path this year but still having postseason success, rolled past Arizona State 70-57 last Tuesday as a 3½-point road underdog to make it to Madison Square Garden for this contest. The Gators have won and cashed in three straight NIT games – all by double digits – following a regular-season-ending 0-4 SU and ATS stretch that kept them out of the NCAA Tournament.

Massachusetts erased a 17-point deficit in the final eight minutes last Tuesday to stun Syracuse 81-77 as a seven-point road pup to reach the NIT semifinals. The Minutemen have been red-hot the past five weeks, going 9-1 SU and 7-3 ATS.

The Gators are 2-5 ATS in their last seven starts as a favorite, but they are on positive ATS runs of 13-4 after a spread-cover, 8-3 after a SU win, 18-7-1 at neutral venues, 17-7-1 as a neutral-site chalk and 35-17-1 in 53 non-conference outings.

The Minutemen are 9-3-1 ATS in their last 13 Tuesday starts, 5-2 ATS in their last seven against winning teams and 5-2 ATS in their last seven as an underdog. However, they’re on pointspread slumps of 1-5 as a neutral-site underdog and 0-5 against the SEC.

The “under” has cashed in all three of Florida’s NIT games and is also 6-1 in the Gators’ last seven non-conference games and 6-1-1 in their last eight after a SU win, but the over is 5-1 in the team’s last six at neutral venues. For UMass, the under is on streaks of 5-1 overall, 5-0 following a victory and 5-2 as an underdog. However, the over is 4-0 in the Minutemen’s last four against the SEC and 18-8-1 in their last 27 non-conference clashes.

ATS ADVANTAGE: FLORIDA


Mississippi (24-10, 14-15 ATS) vs. Ohio State (22-13, 16-14-1 ATS)

Ohio State, which lost to Florida in last year’s NCAA Tournament final, topped Dayton 74-63 Wednesday as a 7½-point home chalk to punch its ticket to New York. The Buckeyes have won and covered in all three of their NIT games – all in Columbus and all double-digit victories – following a 2-5 stretch (2-4-1 ATS) that killed their NCAA Tournament hopes.

Mississippi upset red-hot Virginia Tech 81-72 Wednesday as a seven-point road underdog for its third straight win and cover en route to the semifinals. The Rebels are 7-3 SU and ATS in their last 10 starts, including a current 5-1 run in which the SU winner has cashed in each outing.

These two teams have almost no history against each other, outside of a 67-62 Ohio State win as a three-point home pup in December 1998.

The Buckeyes sport positive ATS trends of 6-0 outside the Big Ten, 4-0 as a favorite, 4-1 against winning teams and 6-2 as a neutral-site chalk, but they are 2-6 ATS in their last eight against the SEC and 1-6-1 ATS in their last eight as a favorite of less than seven points.

The Rebels are on pointspread runs of 5-0 in non-conference play, 4-0 against winning teams, 6-1 on Tuesday and 4-1 after a SU win. The lone negative is their 3-7 ATS mark in their last 10 as a neutral-site pup.

For Ohio State, the under is 8-3 in its last 11 non-conference contest and 10-4 in its last 14 after a spread-cover, but the over is 4-0 with the Buckeyes a neutral-site favorite. For Mississippi, the over is on a 4-0 spree overall and is also 5-1 in its last six outside the SEC, 7-2 in its last nine at neutral venues and 19-7-1 in its last 27 after a SU win.

ATS ADVANTAGE: MISSISSIPPI

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