Can Crusaders stage Garden party?

Can Crusaders stage Garden party?

In the world’s most famous arena, a first-time NIT champion will be crowned tonight.

Valparaiso and George Washington are set to face off in college basketball’s fifth-to-last game of the year, with a 7 p.m. ET tip at Madison Square Garden. Oddsmakers at online sports book Bovada.lv currently like the Crusaders as 2-point favorites to take home the hardware.

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After cruising to the semifinals, No. 1 seed Valpo encountered a much more daunting challenge on Tuesday. Bryce Drew’s crew barely nipped BYU, 72-70, with reserve David Skara nailing a tie-breaking three in the waning seconds to secure a spot in the final. Forward Alec Peters continued his bang-up March by scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

The fourth-seeded Colonials, conversely, received surprisingly little resistance from San Diego State, which had registered at least 72 points in each of its first three tourney contests. Behind redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh’s double-double, though, George Washington routed the Aztecs by 19 and matched the program’s record for wins (27) in a season.

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Before edging the Cougars, the Crusaders’ margin of victory was 12.6 points in the first three rounds vs. Texas Southern, Florida State and St. Mary’s. How Drew chooses to attack GW’s 1-3-1 zone will make for of this evening’s most compelling storylines.

Ultimately, we side with the superior defensive squad. Valpo ranks sixth in the country in adjusted efficiency on that end of the floor. While George Washington pivotmen Cavanaugh, Kevin Larsen and Yuta Watanabe present their own matchup problems, the Horizon League representative’s astounding body of work deserves the benefit of the doubt.

THURSDAY NCAA FREE PICK: VALPARAISO -2

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