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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, March 28, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Before we worry about the NCAA Final Four coming up this weekend in Houston, there’s the matter of the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden in New York to attend to. I can’t tell you who I’ll be picking in Tuesday’s semifinals (or later this week in Thursday’s championship game). But, I can at least get students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping caught up.

 

NIT SEMIFINAL #1: Valparaiso (-1) vs. BYU

It’s a shame Valparaiso didn’t get a bid to the Big Dance. They lost their conference tournament game at home to Wisconsin-Green Bay in a bit of a choke job. The most respected computers all would have had Valpo on the right side of the bubble. But, the Selection Committee did such a horrible job with the mid-majors that Valpo (and too many others) were left out.

Here’s what this #1 seed did to advance to New York…

Valparaiso (-14.5) beat Texas Southern 84-73

Valparaiso (-4.5) beat Florida State 81-69

Valparaiso (-3.5) beat St. Mary’s 60-44

Those last two games in particular jump out…because FSU is in the ACC…and the ACC is the best conference in the nation this year based on what we’ve seen in the Big Dance. And, because St. Mary’s is from Gonzaga’s conference…and Gonzaga just missed making it to the Elite 8 again. By the way, the betting markets would have had both Valpo and St. Mary’s into the Dance based on that betting line. Gonzaga was only -2.5 vs. St. Mary’s in the West Coast Conference finals, but was -4.5 over Syracuse, and -1.5 over Utah! Valpo and St. Mary’s were rated about even on a neutral floor. Valpo really rose to the occasion defensively when it was time to win their quarter.

BYU is also from Gonzaga’s conference…which makes them dangerous too. Here’s how the Cougars advanced…

BYU (-9) beat Alabama-Birmingham 97-79

BYU (-8) beat Virginia Tech 80-77

BYU (-4.5) beat Creighton 88-82

Nice run…because Virginia Tech is another ACC team, and Creighton is from the same conference as Wichita State (who beat Arizona) and Northern Iowa (who should have made the sweet 16). Though, it’s worth remembering here that BYU has a stronger than normal home court advantage because of altitude in Provo. They might turn mortal at sea level in New York.

 

NIT SEMIFINAL #2: San Diego State (-3.5) vs. George Washington

It’s possible that San Diego State was the most unfairly treated by the Selection Committee. I follow them closely here because they’re in the Mountain West Conference. I think that the betting markets would have made them at least a #8-9 seed if “the right people” were in charge of evaluating teams. Gonzaga and Wichita State would have been up around #4-5 (instead of #11!), and San Diego State would have been around #8-9 (instead of in the NIT). Here how SDSU has performed thus far…

San Diego State (-9.5) beat IPFW 79-55

San Diego State (-5.5) beat Washington 93-78

San Diego State (-5) beat Georgia Tech 72-56

Great results against an admittedly friendly bracket. The Pac 12 was horrible this year, so beating Washington doesn’t mean much. Georgia Tech is from the respected ACC…but had to travel cross-country with limited preparation time in that quarterfinal. San Diego State is definitely playing like a team on a mission. The competition’s about to get tougher though, and now they’re the team that had to fly cross-country!

George Washington’s been a nice story. If you watched their games, you could see they were playing with fire and emotion…particularly in that road upset of #1 seed Monmouth.

George Washington (-6) beat Hofstra 82-80

George Washington (+2) beat Monmouth 87-71

George Washington (-1.5) beat Florida 82-77

Ugly opener…great performance at Monmouth (who shouldn’t have been anywhere near “bubble” talk in the Big Dance or #1 seed talk in the NIT given their ACTUAL form! Joe Lunardi fell in love with his own wrong opinion about the team…and too many others trusted him. Monmouth wasn’t one of the 90 best teams in the country, let alone in the top 50 it takes to earn a Dance at-large.)…and then a lucky break that Florida had to come play at GW despite having a better seed. You can see why SDSU is favored. They’ve been more consistent with those three double digit victories.

You have time between now and Tuesday night’s tipoffs to review these rosters (and recent boxscores) to evaluate:

*PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS

*Team Defense

*Particularly Team Defense guarding the rim in close

*Composure (as seen in the turnover category)

*Team performances AWAY FROM HOME vs. Dance and NIT caliber opposition this season

I can’t do the work for you…but The Dean of Sports Handicapping can at least point you in the right direction. KELSO STURGEON’S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Call during normal business hours this week. There are some other lesser tournaments going on at the moment…including one right here in Las Vegas. I just might have something worth your attention in those!

Back with you later this week to talk some more about the NCAA Tournament. Thanks so much for your continuing attendance and hard work. See you next time.

 

Be sure to follow:

Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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