The 2015 National Invitation Tournament is winding down and two more teams will be whittled down tonight as the Final Four takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Both semifinals will feature a No.1 Regional seed versus a No. 2 regional seed. In the opening game, No. 1 Temple (Temple Regional) will take on No. 2 Miami (Fla.), which came out of the Richmond Regional, while No.1 seeded Old Dominion (ODU Regional) will take on No. 2 Stanford, which came out of the Colorado State Region, in the second game.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. (ET) for the Temple- Miami game with the ODU-Stanford game starting 30 minutes following the first game. Both games will be televised by ESPN and will also be available on Watch ESPN.
Temple has won its most recent two tournament games by double-digits after squeaking by Bucknell 73-67 in the opening round. The Owls defeated George Washington 90-77 and then dispatched Louisiana Tech 84-72 in the Elite Eight. Carl Little of Bleacher Report reported that Temple’s 37–point margin of victory is the largest of any of the semifinalists.
Senior guard Will Cummings is averaging 22 points a game for the Owls in the tournament. He tallied a game-high 30 points, on 9-of-14 shooting, against Bucknell. Cummings joined Quenton DeCosey and Jesse Morgan in double figures against Louisiana Tech with 15. DeCosey posted a career-high 21 points to go along with 11 rebounds while Morgan contributed 17 points.
Temple has won 14-of-17 games and gives up just 61.4 points a game which ranks No. 45 in the nation.
The Owls defensive intensity has impressed Miami coach Jim Larrañaga.
“They’re an absolutely incredible defensive team. They don’t turn the ball over… This is going to be a great ball game. I hope our players realize the opportunity they have.”
Miami has reached the semifinals for the first time in 12 NIT bids. The Hurricanes, who have won 9-of-their-past 12 games, knocked off Richmond 63-61 in exciting fashion in the quarterfinals.
Trailing by 12 at halftime, Miami outscored Richmond 45-31 in the second half. Redshirt junior guard Sheldon McClelland, who knocked down a jumper 1:04 left in the game to give Miami its first lead, led the way with 16 points and six caroms. The Hurricanes went 23-of-28 from the free throw line in the game.
Miami has also defeated North Carolina Central (75-71) and Alabama (73-66) in the tournament.
McClelland leads the way with 14.4 points a game for Miami, which may be without starting point guard Angel Rodriguez (wrist) for the third straight game.
Junior Tonye Jekiri provides a strong defensive presence in the middle, recording 51 blocks and 10.1 rebounds a game. Jereki also contributes 8.7 points a game, though sophomore guards Manu Lecomte and Davon Reed will be counted on to provide scoring against Temple. Lecomte tallied 35 points over the first two games of the tournament, but had just four points against Richmond. Reed finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds against the Spiders.
Update: Miami advanced to the NIT championship game with a 60-57. McClelland led the way for the Hurricanes with 16 points, including 12 in the second half.
Freshman Obi Enechionyia had a career night with 17 points and five blocked shots but Cummings finished with just 11 points, on 3-of-15 shooting.
No. 2 Stanford (22-13) vs. No. 1 Old Dominion (27-7)
Stanford is playing at MSG for the 10th time ever, and have produced a 13-4 record at the Arena, according to NCAA.
The Cardinal narrowly escaped Vanderbilt (78-75) to reach the semifinals, as the Commodores missed two three-pointers in the last seven seconds. Stanford also has tournament wins over UC Irvine (77-64) and Rhode Island (74-65).
Senior Anthony Brown led the Cardinals with a game-high 26 points, to go along with a game-high eight boards against Vandy. Senior Chasson Randle, who is averaging 23 ppg in the tournament, chipped in with 16 points and four rebounds, while senior Stefan Nastic contributed 12 points and seven caroms.
Randle needs just 11 points to become Stanford’s all-time scoring leader, and he hopes to do it against ODU. He is averaging 18.9 points a game this season.
“I just come in every single game focused. I’m always thinking attack when I’m out there on the floor. I don’t think anybody can guard me, in my head. I’m just always trying to stay aggressive.”
Stanford has two NIT championships to its credit, with the last being in 2012.
Old Dominion has reached the Final Four of the NIT for just the second time in program history. The Monarchs defeated Murray State in the quarterfinals (72-69), as Trey Freeman banked in a three-pointer from half-court at the buzzer.
Old Dominion opened up the tournament with a 65-56 over Charleston Southern, the Monarchs then held off Illinois State 50-49 in the second round.
Freeman leads the way for Old Dominion with 17.0 points and 4.5 assists, while shooting over 45 percent from the field. Daniel Carney of Rule of the Tree believes that Aaron Bacote (10.1 ppg) and senior forward Richard Ross (8.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) could have big games against Stanford. The Monarchs have won nine of their last 10 games.
Update: Randle, playing through foul trouble, scored 24 points to lead the Cardinal into the NIT Championship game. Stanford jumped out to an early 25-4 lead but then had to hold onto a 67-60 win over Old Dominion.
Randle passed Todd Lichti to become Stanford’s all-time leading scorer and now has has 2,350 points for his career. He finished the game 6-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-8 from beyond the arc, as well as 9-of-12 from the charity stripe.
[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]