Washington And Stanford Reach NIT Semifinals

By: Willie Bee | Monday, March 26, 2012

A disappointing season for the Pac-12 on the hardwood can at least end on a positive note.  Two of the four teams in the NIT semifinals on Tuesday hail from the conference, and oddsmakers like the chances for an all-Pac 12 championship game this Thursday.

Tuesday's action from Madison Square Garden gets underway at 7:00 p.m. (ET) when the Stanford Cardinal take on the Massachusetts Minutemen.  That game will be followed at approximately 9:30 p.m. by a battle between the Washington Huskies and Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Don Best odds screen presently lists Stanford as a 2-point favorite and 149½ for the total.  Washington is 1-point chalk for the matchup vs. Minnesota, with 143 for the scoreboard hurdle in that tilt.

Stanford drew a No. 3 seed for the NIT after finishing the regular season 21-11 (10-8 in Pac-12).  The Cardinal hosted three early-round affairs, beating Cleveland State (76-65), Illinois State (92-88 in overtime) and Nevada (84-56) to earn a trip to New York City for this week's NIT Final Four.  They failed to cover the victory vs. Illinois State as 8½-point favorites, and beat the 6-point spreads in the other two triumphs.

All three of Stanford's tournament games have gone 'over' the total, and the Cardinal are now on a 6-game run above the number dating back to their final regular season contest vs. California. Sophomore guard Aaron Bright has been a key contributor in all three NIT wins, coming off the bench in each contest to average 18.7 points per outing.

Massachusetts (25-11 SU, 19-14 ATS) was seeded fifth after falling to St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals.  The Minutemen were road underdogs of 6½-7½ points in their three previous NIT contests, and pulled off upsets at Mississippi State (101-96 in double overtime), Seton Hall (77-67) and Drexel (72-70).

The spread has dipped a half-point after opening Stanford -2½ while the total has increased a bucket from the initial 147½ figure.

Washington drew one of the four No. 1 seeds after just falling short of reaching the NCAA Tournament.  The Huskies (24-10 SU, 17-15 ATS) became the first team from a Power-6 conference to win its league's regular season title and fail to get an invite to the Big Dance since the NCAA's expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Like its Pac-12 counterparts from Stanford, Washington had the luxury of hosting the first three games in the NIT bracket, taking down UT-Arlington (82-72), Northwestern (76-55) and Oregon (90-86) in the process.  The Huskies covered the first two vs. the Mavericks and Wildcats as favorites of 9½ and 5½ respectively, but fell just shy of beating the 4½-point spread in last week's win over the Ducks.

Minnesota (22-14 SU, 18-14-1 ATS) was seeded sixth in the NIT and spent the first three games on the road as underdogs.  The Gophers were getting 2-5½ points in their victories at La Salle (70-61), Miami-FL (78-60) and Middle Tennessee State (78-72).  Those three covers have Minnesota entering Tuesday's tilt on a 7-game run against the spread.

The spread remains just where it opened with Washington laying the single point, but the total has been boosted from its initial 140½.

Kentucky, Ohio State Draw Final Four Chalk

Opening numbers are out for Saturday's NCAA Tournament semifinals, and it's no surprise to see that oddsmakers have given the early edge to Kentucky and Ohio State.

Final Four contests tip from New Orleans' Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 6:05 p.m. (ET) with a Bluegrass State battle between Kentucky and Louisville.  The Wildcats are favored by 8½ for their rematch with the Cardinals, and the total has already dropped a point to 137½.  Kentucky hosted Louisville this past New Year's Eve and posted a 69-62 triumph as 9½-point chalk.  It was the third straight win in the series for the Wildcats, and also marked the third consecutive 'under' when the final score fell short of the 138-point total.

Saturday's second contest finds the Buckeyes laying 2½ against the Jayhawks with 136½ for the total.  The game is yet another rematch from this past December when Ohio State traveled to Lawrence where Kansas scored a 78-67 victory.  That contest started off with OSU -3 before word that Jared Sullinger would not play due to back spasms sent the number the other direction and closed KU -1½.  The total closed where this week's game opened (136½).

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