NIT Odds & Preview – Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
The Mississippi State Bulldogs and Penn State Nittany Lions have done an impressive job moving up the ladder to the National Invitation Tournaments version of the “final four,” and they will compete at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night for a spot in the championship game. This one tips off at 9 PM ET on ESPN, and if you are a BetAnySports customer, you have the opportunity to place wagers while the action is in progress, accessing the state-of-the-art software from Live Betting Ultra.
Mississippi State, which has a 25-11 record, was beaten in the SEC tournament by Tennessee, but they registered victories in conference play against the likes of Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama and Texas A&M. Through this tournament they have beaten Nebraska, Baylor and Louisville. This last game, against the Cardinals, was probably the most impressive, as Quinndary Weatherspoon had 19 points and 14 rebounds in a 79-56 romp. This brought Mississippi State’s pointspread record over the last 16 games to 12-3-1.
Penn State is 24-13 and has three victories under its belt over Ohio State. Beating the rest of the Big Ten was more of a problem, and that’s what probably kept them from getting an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. It look like they had a lot of the credentials, and instead of pouting about it, they have sought to prove themselves in this NIT, beating Temple and Notre Dame before scoring a 85-80 victory over Marquette on Tuesday.
In the NIT odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, Penn State is the favorite:
Penn State Nittany Lions -2.5
Mississippi State Bulldogs +2.5
Over 135 points -110
Under 135 points -110
For Penn State, this is a return to Madison Square Garden, where the Big Ten tournament was held. In that one they lost to Purdue, and it is a foregone conclusion that a victory in a game like that would have gotten them an invitation to the Big Dance. What has been tough on the Nittany Lions is the loss of power forward Mike Watkins to a knee injury. Watkins, who took up a lot of space in the paint (6-9, 250 pounds) blocked 2.3 shots per game and pulled down 8.9 rebounds. He’s been out the last seven games, but Penn State has managed to get by without him.
Will that be the case against Mississippi State, which can send two different legitimate shot-blockers out there? Of course, NIT bettors know we are talking about Aric Holman, the 6-10 center who blocks 1.8 shots and scores 10.9 points per game, and Abdul Ado, blocking 1.9 shots per contest. Coach Ben Howland, who once led UCLA to three consecutive final four appearances, can have a real intimidator on the floor at all times.
The best offensive player on either team might be Tony Carr, the 6-5 all-conference guard who averages almost 20 points. Although the Nittany Lyons are able to win in their NIT opener despite Carr going just one out of 12 from the field against the Temple Owls, he has come roaring back, with 25 points in each of the last two games, and he’s been very sharp at the free-throw line, going 21-26 combined against Notre Dame and Marquette.
There is no question that Penn State does have some scoring options to rely on aside from Carr, as Lamar Stevens, for example, had 30 against Marquette. But on the inside they should be at a distinct disadvantage, and as long as MSU can keep them out of the paint for the most part, they are going to be a very live underdog on Tuesday night.
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