Free College Basketball Pick -- NIT: A&M and Wazzu Could Have Defensive Battle

  • In Charles Jay
  • Tue, Mar 29th, 2022 8:17:40 am
  • By Charles Jay - Exclusive to OSGA

The NIT conducts its semifinals on Tuesday night, and in the nightcap the Texas A&M Aggies and Washington State Cougars will try to continue their respective hot streaks.

The Texas A&M Aggies and Washington State Cougars both went through awful stretches in their respective seasons that, as it turns out, dealt a death blow to their hopes of getting into the NCAA Tournament. So there was a lot to overcome. Yet here they are, in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), which takes place at Madison Square Garden. They'll play each other at approximately 9:30 PM ET on ESPN, and our free college basketball pick for BetAnySports patrons will be quite the challenge.

There was a time when this was the most prestigious event in all of college basketball, even though the NCAA Tournament existed at the same time. And the entire tournament was held at the Garden. But gradually the NIT faded into the background, and it has become something of a "consolation" tournament for those schools that were shut out of the "Big Dance," which now consists of 68 teams.

Of course, there are a lot of borderline, or "bubble" teams. And some of them have wound up in the NIT. At that point, it's a matter of whether they want to maximize their opportunity or not. Suffice it to say that Washington State and Texas A&M have both taken advantage of what's been put in front of them.

Free College Basketball Pick -- Here are the numbers....

In the odds on this NIT semifinal game, the Aggies are slightly favored:

Texas A&M Aggies -1.5
Washington State Cougars +1.5

Over 131.5 Points -110
Under 131.5 Points -110

Free College Basketball Pick -- How did Washington State get here?

The Cougars (22-14) had lost six games in a row during one stretch in the Pac 12 schedule, but have been pretty strong of late, with seven wins in their last eight games. They have scored wins over Santa Clara, SMU and BYU in the NIT, and the last two have been double-digit victories on the road. It should be noted, however, that there haven't been any wins over teams that eventually made it to the NCAA's. That probably didn't help them at all.

Their offense is strange, in the sense that they have only shot 46.2% from two-point range (313th in the nation) and below 34% from the arc, yet they have pulled down more than a third of their misses, which makes them one of the 35 best offensive rebounding teams in the country.

Defensively, the Cougars do a really good job of defending at the three-point arc (allowing 30.9%) and they are dedicated to creating turnovers (on 20.7% of their opponents' possessions).

Free College Basketball Pick -- How did Texas A&M get here?

The Aggies (26-12) started out 15-2, and then they went into a slide, losing eight consecutive SEC games. That's a tough conference, although there is clearly no excuse for defeats suffered at the hands of Missouri and South Carolina.

But this team has caught fire for coach Buzz Williams, winning ten of their last eleven games, and they made a nice run in the SEC tournament, beating Florida, Auburn and Arkansas before losing to Tennessee. In fact, they came within an overtime period of a three-game sweep of Arkansas, which went to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. But evidently they were going to have to win the conference tourney to go "dancing."

In the NIT they have beaten Alcorn State, Oregon and Wake Forest, all by double digits. A&M thrives on a transition game, which they create with turnovers (they are sixth best in the nation). But they are not a good shooting team (32.7% on threes and 49.9% on twos).

Free College Basketball Pick -- So what's our conclusion?

Interestingly, these teams both hit the offensive boards well, and should get those opportunities, because they don't block out well either. Wazzu does rely on the triple a lot (44% of total attempts), so they better hope they can get some caroms.

We doubt that the Cougars will give the Aggies as many fast break opportunities as they'd like to have. However, Washington State might have more success doing that same thing to A&M.

Ultimately we're just not sure these teams shoot well enough, even with those opportunities to create extra possessions. And the pace will be controlled, so even though we find it difficult to zero in on either side for the cover, we think it might be well worthwhile to think UNDER here.

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