Today marks the start of the NIT Tip-Off featuring four high quality programs all looking for big signature wins to boost their resumes to propel themselves through the season. All four teams enter the field a combined 12-1, three teams have been ranked this season and two are currently ranked in the AP top five. New York City will take front stage once more as all eyes will be on the NIT Tip-Off which is guaranteed to feature four high quality major bracket implication game.
Louisville enters the tournament as the lone team to be unranked at some point this season. They come in at 3-0 with a solid win holding off Vermont last Friday. This will be the first game away from home for the Cardinals who have been impressive thus far under first year coach Chris Mack. Mack has his team playing extremely tough but may lack the talent to compete. Jordan Nwora leads the Cardinals in scoring(18) and rebounding(6.8) as the team ranks 45th in offense efficiency at KenPom.
Tennessee came into the season as a top five program and have lived up to their ranking. At 3-0 Tennessee has steamrolled through their competition allowing at most 65 points in a game. Tennessee is led by Grant Williams who leads the team in scoring (22) and rebounding(8). Williams has a plethora of help as Kyle Alexander and Admrial Schofield both add at least 12 points and over 5 rebounds a game. Tennessee comes in at ranked 18th in KenPom offense efficiency but even better at number nine in defensive efficiency.
As one of the favorites in the Big East, Marquette is the lone team in the field to have suffered a loss already this season when they were defeated by Indiana in the Gavitt Games. Coming in at 3-1 Marquette is a lethal team on offense who can easily put up big numbers on any given night. Marquette ranks 20th in offensive efficiency at KenPom and are led by Big East player of the year candidate, Markus Howard who is averaging 20 a night. The big question this year is whether or not the Golden Eagles can defend. They currently rank 56th on KenPom but did give up 96 to Indiana in their only loss this season.
After being the preseason #1 team in the AP poll Kansas dropped to #2 at no fault of their own after Duke pounded Kentucky in the champions classic. Kansas has young guards and a mature frontcourt where the team is the strongest. Udoka Azabuike is a beast inside averaging 19 points and 7.3 rebounds a game and Lagerald Vick can get hot on any night, he went 8-8 from three against Vermont and finished with 32 points. The wildcard will be Dedric Lawson who is averaging 13 points and 9 boards but has not been as dominate on offense as was expected.
Prediction: Kansas and Tennessee will meet in the final with Tennessee prevailing as the NIT Tip-Off Champions. Lawson will be the key for Kansas, in his game against Vermont he struggled against another extremely talented 4 man in Anthony Lamb and there is a good chance that this will happen again against Williams for Tennessee. Tennessee will also have a great chance to disturb the young backcourt of Kansas and completely take them out of their game. The Volunteers defense is very physical and can easily come out of New York with a high quality win.