You didn’t forget, did you?
The NIT semifinals go down on Tuesday night. And one of the semifinal matchups pit the Penn State Nittany Lions against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Both teams are 4 seeds coming off wins on the road against the 2 seeds in their part of the bracket. State looked very impressive in dominating Louisville, finishing them off by the score of 79-58. Penn State, meanwhile, got a win against the Marquette Golden Eagles to the tune of 90-85.
The winner of this matchup will take on either Western Kentucky or Utah in the NIT Championship Game on Thursday.
Both these teams rely on balance for scoring. Penn State has five players averaging 10 or more points per game, but no one else averages more than 5.0. Mississippi State has seven players that contribute at least 7.0 points per game, meanwhile.
Both teams rank in the Top 60 in defensive points allowed per game, so expect a tight one in New York.
Mississippi State Player to Watch
The junior guard is coming off a 19-point performance in the quarterfinals against Louisville. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer at 14.7 points per game does most of his damage inside the arc, shooting at a 57 percent clip on 2-point attempts. Weatherspoon does shoot 31.8 percent from beyond the arc, so he isn’t incapable of filling it up from the outside.
Penn State Player to Watch
The only thing some of you may know about Penn State is that they impressively knocked off Ohio State three times this season. Tony Carr is a big reason why. He can score from all over the floor, shooting just a tick under 44% percent from three and also leads the Nittany Lions in assists at just under 5.0 a game. Carr can do it all, and stopping him would go a long way to assure a Mississippi State win.
The Coaching Matchup
Ben Howland vs Pat Chambers
While it’s not the Final Four Ben Howland was accustomed to while coaching at UCLA, there has been a large improvement in his third season in Cowbell Country. Mississippi State went from 16 wins last year to 25 so far this year. They finished .500 in conference this season, and the Bulldogs made their first postseason appearance since an NIT First Round loss in 2012. This team is still young, as none of its rotation players are seniors and this program, like many in the SEC, seems to be heading in the right direction. Bulldog fans should be excited about their future.
Pat Chambers has also had his team improve by nine wins this year, going from 15 to 24, obviously with a chance at a couple more. Chambers is in his 7th season at Penn State, and this is easily his most successful. With seven more wins already then his previous high of 18 in the 2014-15 season. The Nittany Lions also racked up nine conference wins, which is three more then the six Chambers has gotten twice. Penn State is also fairly young, with its top three scorers being sophomores. Their improvement over the year should have fans in Happy Valley looking forward to next year.
It has been a while since either of these programs have been in this position. Both teams view this as a stepping stone to bigger and better things for next year. The two semifinalists rely on scoring from all their starters, with the two stars leading the way, alongside a very respectable defense. So it should be a fun one Tuesday night at MSG.
How to Watch
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Watch Online: WatchESPN